Panda cubs: It’s a boy … and a girl for the Toronto Zoo

The Toronto Zoo employed some high-tech tools to find out something pretty old fashioned: the genders of its twins panda cubs.

The larger cub (photographed above on the left) is a male and the other, slightly smaller cub (on the right in the picture) is the female. The boy is also the older of the twins.

The cubs, which will turn four months old on Feb. 13 weigh 5.55 kilograms and 4.85 kg and are about a boatload full of adorable.


“Telling the sex of a giant panda based solely on their appearance is not very straightforward or reliable,” the zoo announced on Friday. “To determine the sex of the cubs, staff collected cheek-cell samples from the cubs with a small swab and drove them to Trent University, Natural Resources DNA Profiling and Forensic Centre. The forensic team at Trent used DNA sexing protocols developed by the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, Center for Conservation and Evolutionary Genetics. The protocol involves sequencing a short fragment of the zinc finger protein gene (males have two different copies of this gene region, X/Y whereas females have two identical copies, X/X).”


Now for the really tough part: Naming the bundles of joy. The zoo will make an announcement on that front on Monday.


Meanwhile, the zoo received some other good news. Today it was honoured by the Giant Panda Global Awards, which is sort of the Oscars for the panda community.

“We’re ecstatic that we’ve received a gold, silver and bronze award from the Giant Panda Global Awards!” the zoo said.

  • Gold: Most Educational Panda Zoo Enclosure for the Panda Interpretive Centre
  • Silver: Panda Cub of the Year for Er Shun’s twin cubs
  • Bronze: Panda Moment of the Year: Er Shun giving birth to Canada’s first giant panda cubs


UPDATE Feb. 8:

To kick off Chinese New Year, the official naming contest is on until Feb. 28. And the zoo is asking panda fans to select from seven pairs of names.


How did the zoo compile the names?

“The naming choices were selected carefully by a committee,” the zoo explained. “The committee, was made up of representatives from the Chinese Cultural Centre of Toronto and the Toronto Zoo, was developed to compile an initial list of potential names for the giant panda cubs. This initial list was provided for input on proper from there the list of potential names was shared with representatives from the Chinese Association of Zoological Gardens (CAZG), Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding and Chongqing Zoo, who provided their feedback. A final review of the names was then provided through the assistance, once again, of Associate Professor, English/Chinese Translation Program, and University of Toronto.”

Photos Toronto Zoo/Facebook

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