Move over, Kate Middleton — panda Lun Lun is also knocked up, expecting her fourth cub after an ultrasound revealed the good news.
The Lun Lun panda pregnancy is, of course, one that sparks the usual restrained joy. Giant pandas like Lun Lun are not only highly endangered but very prone to calamity — last year, a newborn panda cub at The Smithsonian’s National Zoo in Washington passed away in September at just six days old.
That baby panda received insufficient oxygen due to underdeveloped lungs, a necropsy later revealed, and the fragility of Lun Lun’s pregnancy and soon to arrive cub are a concern for zoo officials.
In a statement, Zoo Atlanta president and CEO Raymond B. King said of the discovery:
We’re thrilled about the possibility of a fourth cub for Lun Lun, but we remain cautiously optimistic at this point … Giant panda cubs are extremely fragile, and the chance remains that the fetus does not go to term.
Teen panda mom Lun Lun is pregnant at 15, but is already mom to three surviving panda cubs — males Mei Lan, 6, Xi Lan, 4, and Po, 2. Dad to all four panda cubs is Yang Yang, 15.
Mei Lan now lives at the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding, and King’s statement goes on to say:
“A birth would be another success for our giant panda program, and we share our optimism with our fellow U.S. zoos housing this iconic species and with our colleagues at the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding in China.”
The three surviving cubs and the new arrival are all products of efforts to artificially inseminiate Lun Lun the panda, and the cub fetus discovered this weekend was conceived via the work of Dr. Copper Aitken-Palmer, an expert in giant panda reproductive physiology from Smithsonian’s Conservation Biology Institute.
Lun Lun’s panda cub is expected to arrive later in July, if all goes well.