Zookeepers optimistic about survival chances for twin pandas

In this photo provided by the Smithsonian's National Zoo, one of the giant panda cubs is examined by veterinarians after being born at Smithsonian's National Zoo on Saturday, Aug. 22, 2015, in Washington. The National Zoo in Washington says its adult female panda has had twins. (Becky Malinsky/Smithsonian's National Zoo via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT
In this photo provided by the Smithsonian's National Zoo, one of the giant panda cubs is examined by veterinarians after being born at Smithsonian's National Zoo on Saturday, Aug. 22, 2015, in Washington. The National Zoo in Washington says its adult female panda has had twins. (Becky Malinsky/Smithsonian's National Zoo via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT

WASHINGTON (AP) – Officials at the National Zoo say they’re optimistic about the chances that twin giant panda cubs will survive thanks in part to a technique developed by panda breeders in China.

Panda mom Mei Xiang gave birth to two cubs about five hours apart on Saturday. Both appear healthy.

Panda keepers will perform the delicate task of swapping the cubs every few hours so that each gets a chance to nurse and bond with its mother. The technique has allowed several pairs of panda twins to survive in the past decade, including one in Atlanta.

Zoo director Dennis Kelly says the survival rate for panda cubs born in captivity is now greater than 80 percent. Twenty years ago, it was under 20 percent.

(Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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