The National Zoo in Washington, D.C. has just added two panda cubs to its family. Mei Xiang, the proud mother, gave birth to a cub Saturday afternoon and then did it all over again Saturday night.
Mei Xiang is a 17-year-old giant panda, and was artificially inseminated in late April. Zoo staff had been monitoring her for signs of successful conception; it wasn’t until July that she showed the first signs of pregnancy. The zoo didn’t report the possible pregnancy until August 10.
“All of us are thrilled that Mei Xiang has given birth. The cub is vulnerable at this tiny size, but we know Mei is an excellent mother,” said Zoo director Dennis Kelly.” Thank you to all of our excellent keepers, veterinarians, researchers, and Chinese colleagues who contributed and therefore deserve credit for this conservation success.”
In a press release, the zoo said: “Giant panda Mei Xiang (may-SHONG) gave birth to a cub at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo today, Aug. 22. The panda team witnessed the birth at 5:35 pm. Mei Xiang reacted to the cub by picking it up. The panda team began preparing for a birth when they saw Mei Xiang’s water break at 4:32 pm and she was already having contractions. The sex of the cub won’t be determined until a later date.”
Mei Xiang has already given birth to two cubs—Tai Shan, who was born in 2005 and is now living in China, and Bao Bao, who was born in 2013 and will continue to live in the zoo until she turns 4, and then she will also be sent to China. All giant pandas are owned by China.
With Mei Xiang, all off her offspring have to go back to China as part of the zoo’s lease.
Labor Day comes early for giant panda Mei Xiang at National Zoo:
“The panda team expects Mei Xiang to spend almost all of her time in her den for the next two weeks with her newborn cub. The David M. Rubenstein Family Giant Panda Habitat has been closed to the public since Aug. 20, and will remain closed until further notice to provide quiet for Mei and her cub. Both will continue to be visible on the panda cams. Visitors can also see Tian Tian and 2-year-old Bao Bao (BOW-BOW) in their outdoor habitat and on the panda cam,” said the zoo in a statement.