It’s always a great day for a zoo when a new animal is born, especially when that animal is endangered or at risk. A new birth represents new hope for the species.
And recently Smithsonian’s National Zoo, in Washington DC, has been celebrating the birth of a new panda, who has been described as a “miracle” cub after being born to a 22-year-old mother.
We shared the good news last month, but now the zoo has shared an update about the new cub… and an adorable first photo.
The cub was born August 21 to one of the zoo’s giant pandas, Mei Xiang, who at 22 years old is the oldest panda to ever give birth in the US.
“Because Mei Xiang is of advanced maternal age, we knew the chances of her having a cub were slim,” said zoo director Steve Monfort.
She only had a one percent chance of success, but successfully gave birth and was seen lovingly caring for her newborn. The cub was the first born at the zoo in 5 years.
After the birth, the zoo staff had to wait to inspect the cub while Mei Xiang held onto it. But now, the zoo has released new information about the cub.
The zoo shared a photo on their Instagram of the adorable cub sleeping soundly. They said that the one-month-old panda is already growing up strong: it weighs just under three pounds, is 13.9 inches head to tail, and is 12.5 inches in circumference.
“Our plump panda cub is almost as round as it is long!” the zoo wrote in a press release.
The staff is still waiting on a DNA test to reveal the sex of the cub, but the panda received a clean bill of health after exams.
Pandas have long been an at-risk species. They are currently listed as “vulnerable,” improving from their previous “endangered” status.
One reason is that pandas are famously difficult breeders, with females only having a 24-72 hour window in which they can get pregnant per year.
So the unlikely birth of Mei Xiang’s cub has been a major moment of celebration for the zoo, and it couldn’t have come at a better time.
“If there was ever a time that Mei Xiang needed to do us a [favor] and have a baby, it’s right now,” chief veterinarian Don Neiffer told the Washington Post last month.
“In the middle of a pandemic, this is a joyful moment.”
What an adorable panda cub! We can’t wait to see this precious creature grow up. It’s a bit of hopeful news during these dark times.
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