Giant panda Mei Xiang gave birth at the Smithsonian National Zoo. This is the giant panda's third cub. She had given birth last September, but sadly, that panda only lived for a few days.
Mei Xiang, a giant panda in residence at the Smithsonian National Zoo, gave birth at 5:32 p.m. today. Initially it was not clear whether the giant panda was pregnant or experiencing a pseudopregnancy. On Aug. 11, it was strongly suspected Mei Xiang was going to give birth when her behaviors earlier in the month pointed to a possible pregnancy, according to the National Zoo.
About 3:30 p.m. on Aug. 23, Mei Xiang's water broke and contractions started. Two hours later the baby would be born and the mama bear immediately began cradling her newborn.
Zoo officials established a panda cam that has been operational since Aug. 7. Behavior watchers have been watching the panda 24 hours a day for over two weeks now. There is also a web link where the public can follow the progress via the Web cam.
"I'm glued to the new panda cams and thrilled to hear the squeals, which appear healthy, of our newborn cub," said Dennis Kelly, director of the Smithsonian's National Zoo. "Our expansive panda team has worked tirelessly analyzing hormones and behavior since March, and as a result of their expertise and our collaboration with scientists from around the world we are celebrating this birth."
Last September Mei Xiang gave birth to a cub, but sadly the baby only lived a few days. Her first cub, Tai Shan, was born in 2005. Tai Shan currently lives in China.
In 2013, she was artificially inseminated twice after natural breeding attempts with Tian Tian, the National Zoo's male giant panda, were not successful.
Many giant pandas have a difficult time reproducing both in the wild and while in captivity.
Giant pandas are rare and their population is small. According to a 2012 report by Discovery, only about 1,600 are believed to be in the wild, while over 300 are housed in zoos and breeding centers across the globe, but mostly centered in China.
Since Mei Xiang was artificially inseminated, the offspring could be from either Tian Tian or another panda (Gao Gao) from the San Diego Zoo. Scientists will perform a paternity test in the future.
Gao Gao has successfully fathered five cubs with his mate at the San Diego Zoo, reported National Geographic.
So far, Mei Xiang and her newborn appear to be doing fine.
Related reading:Madrid Zoo-Aquarium hopeful for more Giant Panda cubs, Aug. 21, 2013
Panda from China delivers cub in Taiwan, July 7, 2013