National Zoo’s Mei Xiang Gives Birth To Baby Panda

Good News Notes:

Mei Xiang, a giant panda at the National Zoo in D.C., gave birth to a healthy panda cub on Friday at 6:35 p.m, the zoo has announced.

Mama bear has already shown ‘positive mothering behaviors,’ Zoo wrote in a tweet.

‘She immediately picked up the cub and she’s cradling it,’ zoo spokesperson Pamela Baker-Masson tells WAMU/DCist. “We’ve already heard the cub vocalizing and those vocalizations are a very good sign of health.”

All in all the labor lasted close to three hours, which is close to how long it took Mei Xiang to give birth back in 2013.

The zoo believes Mei Xiang, 22, is the oldest giant panda in the United States to have given birth.

While this is all great news, unfortunately, the zoo’s panda cam did crash due to “exceeding our bandwidth” leaving watchers unable to see the actual birth.

However, even if the panda cam was working, it’s unlikely watchers would have seen much anyway with the birth happening so quickly.

‘It’s not a slow process… the cub is very small,’ Baker-Masson said earlier Friday. ‘And, what we’ve seen previously is that it will sorta … shoot out.’

In the coming days, Mei Xiang and her new cub’s keepers will continue to look for other mothering behaviors, like how she cradles the cub, keeps it warm (by breathing on it), and nursing.

‘We are all going to be looking for signs of nursing, listening for nursing, and looking for it on the panda cam,’ says Baker-Masson.

For the most part, the keepers won’t interfere with Mei Xiang’s mothering. At some point, they’ll give the cub an exam when mom steps out for a snack, but they are pretty much leaving it all up to her.

‘If she just does what her natural instincts tells her to do and what she’s done to her previous cubs, she’s going to be in good shape and so will the cub,’ says Baker-Masson.

The zoo is most likely doing a DNA test to determine the cub’s sex and will work with Chinese colleagues to name the baby panda in about 100 days.

It was mid-afternoon on Friday when Mei Xiang began exhibiting behaviors that indicated she was going into labor. This includes body licking, restlessness, and spending more time in her den.

‘She brought more material back into the den, bamboo and hay, to build her nest. She’s also very, very sleepy,’ said Baker-Masson. ‘She may rest for a bit … but she’s trying to get comfortable.’

Panda cubs at birth weigh about 1/900th the size of the mother, making it one of thesmallest newborn mammals compared to the mother’s size. They are about the size of a stick of butter when born, and can reach up to 300 pounds as an adult.

Excitement around a potential birth began to swell last week, when veterinarians detected fetal tissue and a developing skeletal structure during an ultrasound. Both mama and cub appeared to be healthy with the zoo saying last Friday that Mei Xiang could give birth within the next few days.

And a week later, that’s exactly what happened.”

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