‘True Miracle:’ Extremely Rare Panda Cub Born In Belgian Zoo [Video]

It is extremely rare for giant pandas to give birth in captivity, and the majority of births only occur in China. However, in the first such incident outside of China this year, a giant panda by the name of Hao Hao this week gave birth to a rare male panda cub.

The new panda cub reportedly brings the number of giant pandas remaining in the world to 1,864, and around 300 of those are living in captivity.

For some reason, pandas seem to lose their sexual appetite when living in zoos. However, earlier this week, the BBC reported that a giant panda named Hao Hao did give birth in captivity, just outside of Brussels in Belgium. Reportedly, the panda cub was born hairless and blind, and his mother often picks him up in her jaws in order to clean and protect the tiny cub.

Hao Hao lives in the wildlife park just outside Brussels in Belgium with her partner, a male named Xing Hui, and both are on loan from China. However, the pair never seemed to get it together, so to speak, so handlers at the zoo artificially inseminated Hao Hao, using Xing Hui’s semen.

Reportedly, Chinese experts came to the wildlife park and helped with the artificial insemination of Hao Hao three months ago.

It was only in recent weeks that they found out the artificial insemination had done the trick and that the giant panda was actually pregnant. However, even at that point, zoo officials were cautious and unsure as to if and when Hao Hao would give birth.

Xing Hui father of panda cub
When the panda cub was eventually born this week, Eric Domb, director of the Pairi Daiza wildlife park, was excited and said at a news conference at the zoo, “It’s a boy!”

“Everything went exceptionally well,” he added.

According to Tim Bouts, the park’s zoological director, the cub, weighing in at only 171g (6 oz), looked like “a little pink sausage,” and he reportedly gave a loud squeal as he arrived in the world.

Hao Hao, whose name reportedly means “kindly,” immediately scooped up her baby and held him in her jaws to protect and clean him.

Bouts added that both mother and baby are doing well but noted that the newborn is still in a risky period for any young panda. Reportedly, the mortality rate for newborn pandas is extremely high in their first year, so zoo officials say their work is far from over.

Hao Hao gives birth to panda cub
The Pairi Daiza wildlife park has hosted the giant panda parents since 2014, and in their enclosure, they reportedly enjoy a Sichuan mountain, a bamboo forest, and a cave with amethysts.

If all goes well, the zoo will be able to keep the panda cub for four years before he is returned to China.

The birth of the new panda cub is only the sixth to happen in Europe in the last 20 years. Reportedly, three were born in Austria and two in Spain. China saw two pandas born in zoos this year.

As reported by ABC News, while the panda cub still doesn’t have a name, he has been dubbed a “true miracle” and definitely something to celebrate.

Readers can see more of the giant pandas living at Pairi Daiza wildlife park on their official website or view Hao Hao and her new baby in the video included below.

[Photo via Flickr by heights.18145, cropped and resized/CC BY NC 2.0]