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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178 Comments
  • oinkigirl
    oinkigirlTuesday, October 13, 2020 at 10:22 am
    arent they adorable I went to see it
    • 344924295
      344924295Wednesday, November 18, 2020 at 6:55 am
      lucky!
    • 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
        • wakandaqueen18
          wakandaqueen18Tuesday, November 10, 2020 at 7:26 am
          i live in texas too
        • eagle_hearted
          eagle_heartedWednesday, 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!!🐼
              • alex990
                alex990Friday, October 2, 2020 at 6:34 am
                Lets See how Many Likes I can get for saying Nothing.
                • spacelover-232
                  spacelover-232Wednesday, September 30, 2020 at 3:49 pm
                  I love pandas there so cute
                  • ttvlilwonder64
                    ttvlilwonder64Thursday, October 1, 2020 at 9:16 am
                    I LOVE PANDAS TOOO
                  • sophia1736
                    sophia1736Wednesday, September 30, 2020 at 7:58 am
                    I love pandas so much, they're my favorite animal.
                    • spydude101
                      spydude101Wednesday, September 30, 2020 at 5:25 am
                      Nice! After COVID hope to go see it!