National Zoo Announces That Giant Panda Mei Xiang Has Given Birth

Mei Xiang, a female panda housed at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., has reportedly given birth, bringing one more of the endangered animals into the world.

The panda birthed her newest offspring at 5:35 p.m. on Saturday, according to the AP. If the young panda survives, it will be the third cub to do so in its mother’s 17-year-long lifespan. Though Mei Xiang has given birth to more than three cubs in the past, one was stillborn, while another perished just six weeks after it was born, the result of underdeveloped lungs.

Fans of the animals shouldn’t expect to see the new cub anytime soon, despite the news of its birth. Mei Xiang’s second cub, Bao Bao,was born in 2013, but it was five full months before the general public was allowed to see the new panda. Pink, hairless, and roughly the size of a stick of butter, panda cubs are blind when they are born, and take time to develop.

The public will also have to wait some time before finding out the new cub’s gender, or who its father is. Though parentage is usually easily determined, Mei Xiang was inseminated with sperm from two other pandas. Tian Tian, who is also housed at the National Zoo, could be the father, as could a panda named Hui Hui from Wolong, China.

Only four zoos across the United States house pandas, though the rare animals don’t belong to America. Both Mei Xiang and Tian Tian arrived in the country in 2000, yet they remain the property of China, as do any cubs they may produce. Their first offspring, Tai Shan, was returned to China in 2010, though Bao Bao, their second, remains at the National Zoo. The first pair of pandas to live there, Ling-Ling and Hsing-Hsing, were given as a gift from China following President Nixon’s visit to the communist country.

News of the panda’s birth has caused the National Zoo’s Panda Cam to shut down intermittently, as NPR points out, due to the sheer volume of internet traffic.

[Photo by ChinaFotoPress / Getty Images]

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