Reporting Monique Griego
WASHINGTON (WJZ/AP)—It’s a girl! The Smithsonian National Zoo in Washington announced the gender of its 2-week-old baby panda born last month. But that’s not all we learned.
Monique Griego has the latest from zoo officials.
In addition to gender, we also learned who the new cub’s father is.
Two weeks after the world first heard the panda cub squeal, the Smithsonian National Zoo announced its latest addition is a girl!
“It’s got a fat little belly. It’s very active. It’s very vocal. If it needs anything it definitely lets Mei Xiang and the rest of us know,” said Brandie Smith, senior curator.
It takes time for veterinarians to determine a panda’s gender.
And while we already know her mama is Mei Xiang, it took a DNA test to find out she was sired by Tian Tian. Mei Xiang was artificially inseminated with sperm from Tian Tian, as well as a panda named Gao Gao at the San Diego Zoo.
The new baby panda would have been a twin, but a second female cub was stillborn.
Genetic tests showed they were fraternal not identical.
“This year we learned a lot about the mysterious reproductive physiology of the giant panda,” said Pierre Comizzoli, research scientist at the National Zoo.
China owns the pandas at the National Zoo. The cub is expected to stay with her mother for a little more than two years until she is weaned and will stay at the zoo for about four years.
By Chinese tradition, the cub won’t be named for 100 days.
But name or not, caretakers say she’s developing her own characteristics and ditching the pale pink exterior she was born with.
“We’re starting to see it’s a little bit fuzzy so it’s got those black and white markings coming in. It is just beautiful. She is just beautiful,” Smith said.
This is Mei Xiang’s third little one. In 2005 she gave birth to another baby who was sent back to China in 2010.
Last September she had a cub die six days after birth.
Zoo leaders say they’re now gaining confidence about the new cub’s health.
“She’s past that 10 day mark and we watch her grow stronger and healthier every single day, so we are starting to really celebrate,” Smith said.
Zoo officials say the new cub will likely make her public debut at the four-month mark, but you can always watch her popular panda cam online.
China gave the National Zoo its first set of pandas in 1972 to commemorate President Richard Nixon’s historic visit to the country, and pandas have remained a symbol of diplomacy between the two countries.
The zoo’s first panda couple, Ling Ling and Hsing Hsing, had five cubs during the 1980s, though none lived more than a few days.
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