Atlanta Zoo's Newborn Panda Twins Look Like Hairy Hot Dogs

The good news: America has its first pair of giant panda twins in 26 years! The bad news: They're totes fugs.

Lun Lun, a 15-year giant panda who was artificially inseminated, gave birth to the twins two minutes apart at Zoo Atlanta on Monday evening after a 90-minute labor (compared to the 36-hour labor she endured during her first delivery in 2006). But unlike the black-and-white, roly-poly adorableness of giant pandas, the newborn cubs are gross and rodent-esque, with indents instead of eyes. And why are they so tiny? Isn't it weird that a 235 lb animal would pop out something that fits in the palm of a human hand?

However, Zoo Atlanta has promised, via Twitter, that, "They'll definitely cute'n up!"

Twins are unusual but not unheard of for pandas. Apparently, if this happens in the wild, the panda mom will only take care of one cub and ignore the other. (Jacob Have I Loved!) But Zoo Atlanta will be rotating the cubs out with Lun Lun so that they will be receive their mother's affection.

The twins won't be named until October or November, per Zoo Atlanta's Twitter: "Chinese tradition holds that they're named on their 100th day — so right around then!"

So why do we have to follow Chinese traditions? Because the pandas (all of them in the world) belong to China and the animals play a part in the complicated relationship between China and the United States, as well as other countries. It's called Panda Diplomacy. China used to just give the giant pandas away as "diplomatic gifts" to other countries. But beginning in 1984, the pandas were only offered on 10-year loans, with a fee of $1 million (so really, they were rentals) and the provision that any pandas born during the loan would belong to China.

However, a World Wildlife Fund lawsuit in 1998 determined that U.S. zoos could only import pandas from China if they could guarantee that China would donate at least half of that fee to conservation efforts for pandas in the wild. The pandas in U.S. zoos are import diplomatic symbols of the friendly promise of our often shaky relationship with China. It's actually not all that different from the fostering/hostage program in Westeros.

You can follow the baby pandas' progress through a live PandaCam at Zoo Atlanta's web site.

Double delight! Giant panda gives birth to twins at Atlanta zoo [NBC News]