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Giant panda gives birth to twins at record 23 years old

[BEIJING] Zookeepers never expected the 23-year-old giant panda to give birth again when she was moved to a nature reserve in southwest China to live out the rest of her days.

But Haizi started showing interest in courtship this spring, resulting in a blind date with a male panda suitor and - four months later - twin cubs that have made her the world's oldest panda mom, China's Giant Panda Conservation and Research Center announced Thursday.

A 23-year-old giant panda is equivalent in age to an 80-year-old human.

According to the centre, Haizi gave birth to a 175-gram female and a 123.1-gram male on July 30 at southwest Sichuan province's Wolong National Nature Reserve, where 21 panda cubs have been born this year.

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Haizi last delivered a pair of panda twins when she was 19 years old.

In Chinese culture, a set of boy-girl twins are called "dragon-phoenix babies". "Generally, the maximum breeding age for giant pandas is 20 years old, and pandas older than that are not encouraged to participate in breeding," Li Desheng, a giant panda expert at the breeding centre, said in a statement.

"But Haizi's success demonstrates the advanced degree of care offered at our centre - it is a breakthrough in panda breeding."