Smithsonian's National Zoo Welcomes A New Giant Panda Cub

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22-year-old Mei Xiang gave birth to a healthy cub on August 21, 2020 at the National Zoo in Washington, DC (Credit: Rob Page III / CC BY-SA-3.0/ Creativecommons.org)

Bei Bei's 2019 departure from the Smithsonian's National Zoo, to join the giant panda breeding program in China's Wolong Nature Reserve, left a big void for fans. What made the loss of the adorable cub even more poignant was the belief that his mother, Mei Xiang, was too old to have more offspring. However, on August 21, 2020, the 22-year-old proved experts wrong by giving birth to a healthy cub.

"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, 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."

Mei Xiang playing with then 7-month old Tai Shan on Feb. 14, 2006, at the Smithsonian's National Zoo in Washington (Credit: Shealah Craighead Wikimedia Commons /Public domain)

The zookeepers, who witnessed the "miracle" birth on the live panda camera, say Mei Xiang took to her new offspring instantly and has since been seen lovingly cradling and caring for it. The nurturing is crucial for the survival of the precious cub. Newborn pandas, which weigh just three to five pounds at birth, or about 1/900th the size of their mother, are unable to crawl or see for about two months. They, are therefore, entirely reliant on the mother's warmth, milk, and protection.

It will be several days before the cub, whose gender is still unknown, can be retrieved from the panda enclosure for a thorough neonatal exam. However, thus far, the infant, which can be heard squawking on the live camera feed, appears to be perfectly healthy.

The newborn's parents', Mei Xiang and Tian Tian, are part of the Zoo's cooperative breeding agreement with the China Wildlife Conservation Association. Similar to its siblings — Tai Shan, Bao Bao, and Bei Bei — upon turning four, the new baby panda will be sent to China to try to increase the numbers of the vulnerable species, which currently total just 1,864 specimens in the wild,

Resources: nationalzoo.si.edu, CNN.com

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171 Comments
  • pokemonmaster1
    pokemonmaster1Friday, October 23, 2020 at 2:18 pm
    Super cute!!!!
    • lychee
      lycheeMonday, October 19, 2020 at 9:01 am
      This is so cute. I love pandas 🐼!
      • pokemonmaster1
        pokemonmaster1Friday, October 23, 2020 at 10:25 am
        I know right. Me to.
      • ocean1010
        ocean1010Wednesday, October 14, 2020 at 8:57 pm
        SO CUTE!!!!!!!!!
        • earthgirl226
          earthgirl226Wednesday, October 14, 2020 at 5:06 pm
          Awwwwwww, what an amazing story. I love their names! :)
          • oinkigirl
            oinkigirlTuesday, October 13, 2020 at 10:22 am
            arent they adorable I went to see it
            • sheraya
              sherayaTuesday, October 13, 2020 at 8:34 am
              Oof too bad I won't see him. I live in California 😬😔
              • deathly_hallows
                deathly_hallowsFriday, October 16, 2020 at 7:17 am
                i won't be able to see them either i live in canada
              • sirenhead123
                sirenhead123Thursday, October 8, 2020 at 11:16 am
                to bad i live in texas otherwise i would totally go and see it
                • cowboys_neymar
                  cowboys_neymarWednesday, October 7, 2020 at 4:05 pm
                  Awwwww soooo cute.. follow me if u agree.
                  • horsequeem
                    horsequeemFriday, October 9, 2020 at 6:34 am
                    i do so agree they are so adorable
                  • thomrac29
                    thomrac29Wednesday, October 7, 2020 at 7:59 am
                    Pandas are my favorite animal🐼🐼
                    • catholic
                      catholicSaturday, October 3, 2020 at 4:57 pm
                      Pandas are my BFF!!🐼