Surviving Panda Cub At National Zoo Is Male And Was Sired By Tian Tian

surviving panda cub

The surviving panda cub at the National Zoo is male, according to a report by ABC News.

To determine the cub’s gender, veterinarians at the Giant Panda Habitat were able to perform genetic testing by taking swabs from inside the surviving panda cub’s mouth. By performing the tests, the veterinarians were also able to determine that Tian Tian, the National Zoo’s male panda, had fathered the cub.

“Determining the pedigree relationships of a cub is a key aspect of helping to maintain a genetically diverse population,” Dr. Robert Fleischer, head of the zoo’s Center for Conservation and Evolutionary Genetics who performed the genetic testing, said. “Our ability to assess the cub’s lineage will help our colleagues ensure that he finds a suitable mate.”

“I’m happy to say the results were very clear,” he added.

The Smithsonian’s National Zoo’s giant female panda Mei Xiang gave birth to the first of the fraternal cubs on Saturday, August 22, at approximately 5:35 p.m., and then welcomed the second just a few hours later. Sadly, the smaller of the twins died on Wednesday after struggling with respiratory issues from feeding complications. While the official cause has not yet been revealed, the staff at the zoo have said they think the cub contracted pneumonia after food entered its respiratory system.

According to the National Zoo, the surviving panda cub, who has not been named, is doing very well and appears to be healthy. He has increased his weight by 16 percent in just over 42 hours, and on Friday, August 28, the cub weighed in at 5.5 ounces. “We’re ecstatic about that,” said Fleischer.

Giant pandas, which are native to China, are one of the most endangered species in the world. Currently, there are only 300 giant pandas in captivity and roughly 1,600 in the wild. Especially in captivity, the pandas have a very low reproductive rate.

“The mortality rate for panda cubs in their first year in human care is 26 percent for males and 20 percent for females. Note that some early mortality rates may be underestimated,” the zoo said in a statement on Wednesday. “Giant pandas give birth to twins approximately 50 percent of the time. This is only the third time a giant panda living in the United States has given birth to twins.”

Mei Xiang has previously given birth to two surviving cubs: Tai Shan in 2005 and Bao Bao in 2013. She is not expected to make her first public appearance with her cub until January 2016.

[Photo via Twitter/National Zoo]