Clean bill of health

Panda cub born in Wash­ing­ton is good and fit.

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - FRONT PAGE - By CHEN WEIHUA in Wash­ing­ton chen­wei­hua@chi­nadai­lyusa.com

The gi­ant panda cub born on Fri­day at the Smith­so­nian’s National Zoo in Wash­ing­ton ap­pears to be in good health af­ter the zoo con­ducted a quick phys­i­cal ex­am­i­na­tion on Sun­day morn­ing.

“All the ex­ter­nal fea­tures looked per­fectly nor­mal, so the cub has been de­scribed as vi­brant, healthy and ac­tive,” said Pamela Bak­erMas­son, a spokes­woman for the zoo. “My col­leagues were very, very happy. This is joy­ful news.”

The zoo tweeted the news on Fri­day, say­ing: “We have a cub!! Born at 5:32 pm this evening.”

The abrupt de­liv­ery on Fri­day was caught by the zoo’s we­b­cam, which runs 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It showed the cub’s mother, Mei Xiang, scoop­ing the tiny cub up and then cradling it against her­self. Baker-Mas­son said the mother panda Mei Xiang was ag­i­tated when the cub was taken away for ex­am­i­na­tions, pac­ing and growl­ing in her den, but she calmed down im­me­di­ately af­ter it was re­turned and went back to cradling the cub.

Af­ter the birth, zoo of­fi­cials kept a close watch on Mei Xiang through­out the night since nearly half of gi­ant panda births re­sult in twins. Twenty-six hours af­ter the birth of the first cub, a still­born twin cub did in fact ar­rive.

Mei Xiang was im­preg­nated by ar­ti­fi­cial in­sem­i­na­tion by a Chi­nese panda ex­pert in March. The do­nated sperm came from Tian Tian at the National Zoo and a panda named Gao Gao at the San Diego Zoo.

“It is not known who is the fa­ther yet,” said Chris­tine Kohl, a vol­un­teer of the Asia Trail of the National Zoo, on Sun­day out­side the Gi­ant Habi­tat, which had been closed to vis­i­tors since Aug 2 to cre­ate a more fa­vor­able en­vi­ron­ment for Mei Xiang’s preg­nancy.

Throngs of vis­i­tors to the zoo on Sun­day were only able to see Tian Tian, while they were able to ob­serve Mei Xiang and the new­born cub via we­b­cam.

Gi­ant pan­das have been stars at the National Zoo, where lo­cal tran­sit cards bear the im­age of a panda and lo­cal panda lovers say they are en­joy­ing the pan­da­ma­nia.

Mei Xiang has given birth to four cubs at the National Zoo. The first one, Tai Shan, born in 2005, was a sen­sa­tion, but it was re­turned to China in 2010. Ac­cord­ing to an ar­range­ment with China, new­born cubs from par­ents on loan be­long to China.

Mei Xiang gave birth to a cub in Septem­ber, but it died af­ter six days. Kohl said Mei Xiang grieved for days af­ter the pass­ing.

She said a Chi­nese ex­pert was on site to of­fer help at last week’s birth. The National Zoo has also sent its staff mem­bers to re­ceive train­ing at the gi­ant panda breed­ing cen­ter in Sichuan prov­ince.

Usu­ally a panda cub stays with its mother for 18 months, at which point the mother starts to push the cub away, Kohl said.

Since it takes months be­fore it’s de­ter­mined if a new­born panda will sur­vive, the new cub has yet to be named, Kohl said.

About eight years ago, Tai Shan was given his name 100 days af­ter his birth. The name was cho­sen through an In­ter­net vote of 202,000 peo­ple from around the world and comes from the name of a fa­mous moun­tain in China’s Shan­dong prov­ince. It is also the Chi­nese trans­la­tion of Tarzan, the fic­tional char­ac­ter cre­ated by Edgar Rice Bur­roughs.

Agen­cies con­trib­uted to this re­port.

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