The new cub is the third for Mei Xiang, who was seen cradling her newborn on the zoo’s “Panda Cam” shortly after she gave birth.
At this point, zoo officials don’t know the sex of the cub, which is about the size of a stick of butter, reports Reuters. However, they will be watching the cub closely in the coming days to make sure the little one is healthy.
Mei Xiang’s latest offspring was conceived through artificial insemination in March. The process included a mixture of fresh and frozen semen collected from two different male pandas.
One possible father is Tian Tian, who also lives in the National Zoo. However, the other, Gao Gao, is a resident of the San Diego Zoo. Scientists are expected to perform a paternity test to see which male panda is the father.
Despite the celebrations, zoo officials will likely be on edge in the coming days. CNN notes that Mei Xiang delivered a female cub almost a year ago. However, she died within a few days due to underdeveloped lungs.
Zoo officials are still pleased and hopeful that this cub will be healthier. But the National Zoo’s director, Dennis Kelly, commented, “We’re still going to be tense for the next two or three months. We have high hopes.”
If the little panda cub makes it, it will take two or three weeks to know its sex. Per Chinese tradition, zoo officials won’t name the cub for 100 days. All of the pandas are on loan from China and the newborn cub will return to the country at the age of four, should he or she make it that long.
If you want to watch the giant panda cub at the National Zoo, you can click here to watch the panda cam.
[Image via ShutterStock]