Giant panda gives birth to female cub in Taiwan zoo

A giant panda, one of a pair presented by China four years ago to mark warming ties with Taiwan, has given birth to a female cub at a Taipei zoo, officials said Sunday.

The 9-year-old Yuan Yuan delivered the cub Saturday night, following artificial insemination given in March, the zoo announced.

It was the seventh such attempt on Yuan Yuan in three years, they said. Natural pregnancy among pandas is relatively rare.

The zoo showed a picture of Yuan Yuan holding the pink, palm-sized cub.

China sent the pandas to Taiwan in December 2008. The two sides split amid civil war in 1949.

China named the animals Tuan Tuan and Yuan Yuan, which together means "reunion." Opposition politicians and other Taiwanese skeptics have warned China could use the pandas to advance its unification agenda with self-governed Taiwan.

But the pair has remained the most adored animals at the zoo. Yuan Yuan's anticipated pregnancy has been closely followed by the media.

Zoo official Chao Ming-chieh said China has agreed to allow Taiwan to keep the cub on the island.

Beijing has loaned its giant pandas to many countries but cubs born abroad are to be returned to China.