Panda triplets born in China

BY Andrew Troast  August 12, 2014 at 3:19 PM EST

Video by AP

Chinese zoo officials in the southern city of Guangzhou’s Chimelong Safari Park have officially announced the birth of extremely rare panda triplets.

The trio was born on July 29, but zoo officials waited until Tuesday to announce the births because of an “extremely high” mortality rate for infant pandas. Still unnamed, the cubs are “the only panda triplets that have ever survived,” according to a statement released by the zoo Tuesday.

Zoo officials are confident that the mother, Juxiao, and all three cubs are healthy in what is being hailed as a major success for the Chinese artificial breeding program. Ju Xiao was too weak right after the birth to care for the newborns, but is now nursing with the help of feeders.

The baby pandas were born just hours apart from one another, each now weighing between 8 to 12 ounces. Panda cubs face a dangerous first year. According to the Associated Press, 26 percent of male and 20 percent of female pandas do not live past the first year.

Panda birthrates are so low in part because female pandas are only able to conceive for a few days every year. The beloved animals are also infamously selective choosing mates and uninterested in reproduction. Scientists cite this and human encroachment as factors contributing to the fewer than 1600 pandas estimated to be still living in the wild.

On Tuesday, the Edinburgh Zoo also announced they believe that their female Giant Panda Tian Tian may be pregnant after months of uncertainty. Panda pregnancies are notoriously difficult to determine because the animals do not experience significant changes in hormones or behavior during pregnancy.