News Column

Panda-monium Again in Washington, Zoo Welcomes Cub

Sept. 17, 2012

A panda at Washington's National Zoo has given birth to a cub, officials said Monday in an announcement that is sure to draw thousands of visitors to one of the zoo's most popular exhibits.

Washington is home to two adult pandas on loan from China. The animals have become unofficial mascots for the US capital, and there has been widespread news coverage over the years about the reproductive status of female Mei Xiang.

Zoo officials had artificially inseminated her earlier this year. They have kept up a pregnancy watch for weeks but were unable to say conclusively whether a cub was on the way. Mei Xiang has had so-called false pregnancies in the past where she demonstrated symptoms of pregnancy but was not actually carrying a cub.

Zookeepers were ecstatic about the late Sunday new addition, which they are monitoring through cameras in the panda house.

"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," chief veterinarian Suzan Murray said. "She is the poster child for a perfect panda mom."

The Smithsonian Institution, the Washington-based museum complex which includes the National Zoo, on Monday urged employees interested in the panda cub to view it using the institution's internal web feed, because thousands of workers viewing the panda cub through external internet feeds could consume so much bandwidth as to interfere with routine business.

Mei Xiang gave birth to one earlier cub, Tai Shan, in 2005. He was returned to China in 2010, prompting intense speculation about when another panda might be born.

Source: Copyright 2012 dpa Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH

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