Giant panda gives birth at US National Zoo, raising hopes
By Olivia Hampton, AFPWASHINGTON--A giant panda gave birth to a cub Friday at the U.S. National Zoo in Washington, raising hopes for a rare success after a series of false pregnancies, officials said.
August 25, 2013, 12:03 am TWN
“WE HAVE A CUB!!” the zoo announced on Twitter after female giant panda Mei Xiang's unnamed baby was born at 5:32 p.m. (2132 GMT).
Mei Xiang's waters broke two hours earlier at 3:36 p.m. The panda had been on round-the-clock watch since Aug. 7 via closed-circuit cameras.
The zoo said it was monitoring to see whether a second cub might be born as giant pandas often bear twins.
“Mei Xiang picked the cub up immediately and began cradling and caring for it,” the zoo said in a statement.
The very small, pink cub could be heard squealing.
“I'm glued to the new panda cams and thrilled to hear the squeals, which appear healthy, of our newborn cub,” said zoo director Dennis Kelly.
“Our expansive panda team has worked tirelessly analyzing hormones and behavior since March, and as a result of their expertise and our collaboration with scientists from around the world we are celebrating this birth.”
Veterinarians often have trouble confirming whether a giant panda is pregnant because she experiences the same physiological stages when she is bearing a cub or going through a pseudopregnancy.
The only definitive way to confirm a giant panda's pregnancy is to detect a fetus on an ultrasound, but zoo officials said Mei Xiang stopped participating in the scans on Aug. 5.
In September, Mei Xiang gave birth to a female cub, but it died six days later from liver damage due to underdeveloped lungs. She had five consecutive false pregnancies from 2007 to 2012.
Her first cub, Tai Shan, was born in July 2005 as a result of artificial insemination. It now lives at the Bifengxia Panda Base in Ya'an, China.
Mei Xiang was artificially inseminated twice in March after unsuccessful attempts to breed her naturally with the National Zoo's male giant panda, Tian Tian.
During a first procedure, she was artificially inseminated with fresh semen collected from Tian Tian and frozen samples collected in 2003.
She was also inseminated during a second procedure with Tian Tian's 2003 frozen samples and frozen semen from the San Diego Zoo's male giant panda, Gao Gao, collected that same year.
The National Zoo said scientists will perform a paternity analysis in the coming weeks to determine which male panda sired the new cub.