After years of trying, and the loss of a 6 day old cub in September, the National Zoo finally has a panda cub. Their Giant Panda Mei Xiang had a cub born Friday at 5:32 in the afternoon after a brief 2 hour labor. Like all newborn pandas the infant is a scrawny, ugly, little thing, hairless and weighing in at around 4 ounces, the size of a stick of butter. Zoo officials had not been certain that Mei Xiang was pregnant until very recently because she was not cooperative when they made several attempts to do an ultrasound to detect a cub. (Who thought a mama panda would cooperate with that?) The film of the birth and the story are here.
Then sad news came from the zoo last night. A second cub was stillborn, 26 hours after the first cub was born. Mei Xiang tried hard to bring the cub to life, but the cub was never alive and she couldn’t change that, despite her best efforts. The sad story here. Meanwhile the first cub continues to do well.
A live video feed of the panda mom and cub on the National Zoo’s panda cam is available here. I will warn you, it’s boring. Mom and baby sleep most of the time. Mom doesn’t even eat or drink for the first few weeks because in the wild if she went off to feed the cub would die. The infant is very tiny, and very vulnerable, reasons why Giant Pandas are nearly extinct. I keep the zoo’s camera feed open on my computer, with the sound turned up, while I do other things on the net. If the cub begins to squeal and squawk (he/she has quite a pair of lungs for such a tiny thing) then I flip over to watch. That’s when mom and cub are most active and when it might be possible to catch a glimpse of little butter stick. Mei Xiang is a very attentive mother. Even if you can’t see him, it’s fun to hear him.
Twice today zookeepers made unsuccessful attempts to grab the newborn cub from its mother. They had hoped to do a fast wellness check and quickly return the cub to the den. Attempting to grab a newborn cub from 240 pound mother doesn’t sound like a good idea. Mom was smart and tucked the newborn under her chin. They have never been able to snatch a newborn cub but that didn’t stop them from trying. Story here.
The next big thing will be what to name the new cub. One suggestion, Northwest, because he was born in Northwest Washington DC. That name is cuter for a panda cub than for the poor child who was actually given the name North West by his idiotic celebrity parents.
Our new cub in DC:
In a few weeks the cub will look like this:
Update: On Sunday the surviving cub was examined by veterinarians and found to be in ‘excellent health’, weighing in at 4.8 ounces. The sex of the cub won’t be known for several weeks. They also learned that stillborn cub had numerous gross abnormalities. Updated story here. Picture gallery of our little bundle of joy is here.