The National Zoo’s baby giant panda is female! The happy news was announced on Thursday by zoo officials.
The new cub is in good health, sporting a round belly and loud cries. She was born on August 23 to 15-year-old panda Mei Xiang. The National Zoo’s tests also showed the baby girl’s father is 16-year-old Tian Tian.
Tian Tian is also located at the National Zoo, reports Reuters. Until the tests, the baby panda’s father was unknown because she was conceived using artificial insemination from two male pandas.
Mei Xiang delivered two cubs, but the one that arrived on August 24 was stillborn. Scientists confirmed the stillborn cub was also a girl sired by Tian Tian.
The birth was watched by thousands of people, who tuned in using the zoo’s public panda cams. The female giant panda won’t be named for 100 days, per Chinese tradition.
The cub was only about four inches long, or the size of a stick of butter, when she was born, notes CNN. She did well and her mother was seen cradling and nursing her in her den at Washington, D.C.,’s National Zoo.
Despite her good health so far, zoo officials are likely still keeping a close eye and trying not to get their hopes up. Baby giant pandas have a 40 percent mortality rate
The Huffington Post notes that the 10-day mark is critical for giant panda survival. The little female cub flew by that day with no issues. Senior Curator Brandie Smith added, “We watch her grow stronger and healthier every single day. So we’re finally starting to really celebrate.”
Zookeepers were able to perform a wellness check on the tiny panda when she was two days old. However, Mei Xiang has become more protective of her baby. As such, she hasn’t allowed anyone to take her away again.
The female giant panda cub will stay with her mother for about two years until she is weaned. She will stay at the zoo for four years and then be sent back to China. The Asian country owns all giant pandas.