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Smithsonian National Zoo Celebrates Giant Panda Birth

Posted By : The Animal Facts Editorial Team

Date: August 23, 2020 12:01 am

Smithsonian Panda Cub

Mei Xiang soon after giving birth

Photo Credit: Smithsonian National Zoo

The Smithsonian National Zoo has welcomed the birth of a giant panda cub. Mother Mei Xiang gave birth to her cub at 6.35pm on August 21st. The father of the cub is resident male Tian Tian.

Keepers were able to watch the birth live without disturbing the expecting mother on the zoos pandas cams. They had been maintaining a 24 hour watch on the panda cam since August 14th to ensure they could assist if she went in to labor.

Mei Xiang has raised three surviving cubs and has taken to motherhood magnificently once again. Soon after the birth she was observed picking up, cradling and caring for the cub. The cub was also seen to vocalize soon after birth.

Within the next few days it is expected that keepers will retrieve the cub and perform a neonatal exam to ensure it is healthy. Its gender will be determined at a later date.

Smithsonian Panda Cub

Mei Xiang soon after giving birth

Photo Credit: Smithsonian National Zoo

While the birth of any panda cub is exciting, Mei Xiang’s birth is extra special. She is now the oldest panda to have given birth in the USA and the second oldest in the world. She turned 22 years old on July 22nd 2020.

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.”

The arrival of the giant panda cub has been anticipated since a fetus was discovered during an Ultrasound on August 14th. We covered the discovery of the fetus here – Giant Panda at Smithsonian National Zoo Might Give Birth Within Days. This ultrasound was exciting for keepers at Mei Xiang will typically refuse to participate in ultrasounds in the lead up to giving birth.

Keepers artificially inseminated Mei Xiang on March 22nd which led to the birth. The insemination was performed solely with frozen semen. This is the first time a panda has bred using only artificial insemination with frozen semen in the USA.

giant panda smithsonian national zoo

Mei Xiang prior to giving birth

Photo Credit: Smithsonian National Zoo

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In the days leading up the birth keepers noticed an increase in sleeping, body licking and nesting behaviors from Mei Xiang. Her appetite decreased at this time all signs that a birth was imminent.

Currently the David M. Rubenstein Family Giant Panda Habitat is closed to visitors to prevent disturbance to Mei Xiang and her new cub.

As part of the co-operative breeding for the giant panda the cub will return to China when it turns four.

Learn more about the giant panda Giant Panda | The Animal Facts

Learn more about the Smithsonian National Zoo – Smithsonian National Zoo

Footage of Mei Xiang giving birth

Video Credit: The Smithsonian National Zoo

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