Madrid — Not even Britain's royal baby could boast of as much attention and pampering as the newborn twin panda cubs born early Saturday morning in Madrid's zoo.
Although the younger of the two did not survive, the firstborn cub is doing well, lovingly breast fed every two hours by its doting mother, Shao-Shao. The cubs are among only a very few cases of panda twins to be born in captivity.
The surviving cub is barely larger than a baby kitten.
''At first we thought we were going to witness a tragedy,'' said Dr. Lillana Monsalve, the zoo veterinarian who assisted Shao-Shao during her predawn labor. ''We thought she had eaten her firstborn, as she put it into her mouth and clenched her enormous jaw shut. But then, she took it out and held it in her paw and pressed it maternally against her breast and we sighed in relief.''
The Tibetan animals are in danger of extinction. There are only 10 of them in the West, and their breeding process is difficult. Last March Shao-Shao was artificially inseminated by the London Zoo's Chia-Chia, whose paternity rights are being claimed by Britain.
Said a Spanish zoo guard before the second cub died: ''Spain shouldn't give up a panda cub to the Brits - unless they give us back Gibraltar in exchange.'' Now, many Spaniards would probably not even exchange the rock for the surviving twin.