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Meet the National Zoo’s Newest Panda Cub

Giant panda Mei Xiang gave birth to a panda cub at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo in Washington, D.C.

Proud Panda Parents Mei Xiang and Tian Tian (Ann Batdorf, NZP photographer)

There’s a new panda in town. Last night, around 10:46 pm Eastern Time, giant panda Mei Xiang (pronounced may-SHONG) gave birth to a panda cub at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo in Washington, D.C.

It is the second cub born to the giant panda pair Mei Xiang and Tian Tian. Their first cub, Tai Shan, lived at the zoo for almost five years, until 2010, when he was transported to China.

In a post on the National Zoo’s website, chief veterinarian Suzan Murray says:

“Mei Xiang is behaving exactly the same way she did when Tai Shan was born. She is cradling her cub closely , and she looks so tired, but every time she tries to lay down, the cub squawks and she sits right up and cradles the cub more closely. She is the poster child for a perfect panda mom.”

The cub’s birth could mean more time in the United States for Tian Tian and Mei Xiang, whose reproductive capabilities (or lack thereof) have been a source of speculation for years. The pair are here as part of a research agreement between the United States and China as part of a breeding program, but have only produced two cubs in the 14 years that both have been in the United States.

Right now, handlers are monitoring the cub by video and won’t approach until Mei Xiang leaves its side. People desperate for a panda fix can join in the fun by visiting a live webcam of the enclosure. If you listen carefully, you can hear the cub’s insistent shrieks for its mother’s attention. Viewing is limited to just five minutes due to the high volume of traffic on the site.

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