It's a… Panda! Smithsonian's National Zoo Celebrates Birth of Giant Panda Cub
Congratulations are in order for Mei Xiang and the staff at Smithsonian's National Zoo in Washington, DC!
With the world watching, the beloved giant panda gave birth to a cub on Friday evening. Mei Xiang (may-SHONG) reportedly picked the cub up immediately and began cradling and caring for it.
Staff are currently monitoring Mei Xiang and her cub via the zoo's panda cams. A neonatal exam will be performed when keepers are able to retrieve the cub, likely at some point this week.
The birth came a week after veterinarians detected fetal tissue during an ultrasound. Mei Xiang, 22, who had previously given birth to three surviving cubs, was being closely monitored following an artificial insemination in March.
"Giant pandas are an international symbol of endangered wildlife and hope, and with the birth of this precious cub we are thrilled to offer the world a much-needed moment of pure joy," said Steve Monfort, John and Adrienne Mars Director of the Smithsonian's National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute. "Because Mei Xiang is of advanced maternal age, we knew the chances of her having a cub were slim. However, we wanted to give her one more opportunity to contribute to her species' survival. I am incredibly proud of our animal care and science teams, whose expertise in giant panda behavior was critical to this conservation success."
While the panda house at the David M. Rubenstein Family Giant Panda Habitat is currently closed to provide quiet for Mei Xiang, viewers can watch her care for her cub on the zoo's panda cams, which also feature its other giant panda, Tian Tian.
It is believed that there are only 1,800 giant pandas left in the wild. As part of the Smithsonian's National Zoo's cooperative breeding agreement with the China Wildlife Conservation Association, all panda cubs born at the zoo move to China when they are four years old.
We can't wait to watch you grow up little one!