“Joyful news: a precious giant panda cub has arrived!” said a statement from the Washington, D.C., zoo. Mei Xiang is “caring for her newborn attentively.” She’s exhibiting “positive mothering behaviors, include nursing her cub and cuddling it close,” zoo officials noted.
Mei Xiang “picked the cub up immediately” after the birth and “began cradling and caring for it,” the statement noted. The panda team heard the cub vocalize, and caught a glimpse of the “wonderful, wiggly cub,” said a tweet from the zoo.
A neonatal exam will be performed when keepers are able to retrieve the cub, which may take a few days, according to the zoo. The sex of the cub will be determined later.
Female giant pandas rarely weight more than 220 pounds. Newborn cubs — pink, hairless and blind — weigh just 3 to 5 ounces and are about the size of a “stick of butter,” according to the zoo. Cubs usually stay with their mothers up to three years.
Zoo officials learned that 22-year-old Mei Xiang was pregnant during an ultrasound earlier this month. But she also began exhibiting some pregnancy behaviors in late July, including sleeping more, eating less and building a nest.
Females are able to become pregnant for only 24 to 72 hours each year. Mei Xiang was artificially inseminated in March.
“In the middle of a pandemic, this is a joyful moment we can all get excited about,” Don Neiffer, chief veterinarian at the zoo, said after the ultrasound.
Mei Xiang is the oldest giant panda in the United States and the second oldest documented in the world to give birth, according to the zoo.
She had previously given birth to three surviving cubs — Tai Shan, Bao Bao and Bei Bei — who now live in China.