Newborn US panda is 'robust' , zoo says
Mother gives birth to live and stillborn twin siblings in Washington DC
The giant panda cub born at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo is pictured receiving an exam from animal care staff. The cub weighs 137 grammes. Photograph: Courtney Janney, Smithsonian’s National Zoo/Handout/Reuters
A panda at Washington DC’s National Zoo who is tending to her squealing newborn cub also gave birth to a stillborn cub.
That cub was not fully formed and was never alive outside the womb, a zoo official said.
Zoo staff today got their first chance to examine the living newborn cub. The cub weighs 137 grammes and chief veterinarian Suzan Murray reports that the cub is robust, has a steady heartbeat, a full belly (is nursing well), and has successfully passed fecals.
Zoo officials do not yet know the cub’s sex but animal care staff obtained a DNA sample. However it will take approximately 2-3 weeks before the sex is known.
Mei Xiang gave birth to the motionless cub on Saturday night after giving birth to its live twin the night before, zoo spokeswoman Pamela Baker-Masson said.
The mother groomed her stillborn cub for 17 minutes before letting it fall to the floor, she said.
The zoo began performing a postmortem on the stillborn cub late yesterday that they hope will tell them why the cub stopped developing and died in-utero, she said.
The live cub was the 15-year-old panda’s third. Mei Xiang gave birth to a cub last year that died after just six days.
Its lungs had not fully developed and probably were not sending enough oxygen to its liver. Mei Xiang’s first cub, a male named Tai Shan, was born in 2005.
An early examination at the zoo is a change from last year, and staff members made several other changes in preparation for another cub.
Mei Xiang’s den was altered to allow keepers to get closer to her, and the zoo invited a panda expert from China who specialises in newborns to help out. Two of the zoo’s panda keepers also recently spent time in China learning more about examining newborns.
Zookeepers made two attempts at examining the cub yesterday, but Mei Xiang was cradling it and officials were unable to take it for a closer examination. They plan to try again today.
Information collected during the check-up will serve as a baseline for future examinations, and the DNA sample will be used to determine the cub’s father.
Mei Xiang was artificially inseminated both with sperm from the zoo’s male panda, Tian Tian, and sperm from a panda at the San Diego Zoo, Gao Gao.