After five years without a giant panda cub birth in the region, the Smithsonian’s National Zoo welcomed a new cub this weekend with Mei Xiang giving birth on the night of Aug. 21 at 6:35 p.m.
The animal care staff at the zoo has been monitoring 22-year-old giant panda Mei Xiang and her cub via the zoo’s panda cams and will perform an exam on the cub once they are able to retrieve it from the mother. The zoo said the sex of the cub will be determined at a later date.
“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, in a recent press release. “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.”
Along with Mei Xiang’s age, giant pandas usually have a difficult time becoming pregnant, as they only ovulate for 24 to 72 hours per year.
With the birth of this cub, Mei Xiang became the oldest giant panda in the United States and the second oldest documented in the world to give birth. Mei Xiang has given birth to three other surviving cubs, including Tai Shan, Bao Bao and Bei Bei. All three of her previous cubs are back in China as part of the zoo’s cooperative breeding agreement with the China Wildlife Conservation Association.
If you’re looking to catch a glimpse of the mom and her new cub, the National Zoo offers a panda cam of both Mei Xiang and male panda Tian Tian. The giant panda house at the zoo is still closed to the public, but visitors can reserve a ticket to visit the outdoor upper overlook in the giant panda exhibit and other open areas of the Smithsonian’s National Zoo. // 3001 Connecticut Ave. NW, Washington, DC
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