National Zoo

National Zoo Panda Cub ‘Seems Strong' as Markings Start to Appear

"Mei Xiang’s cub seems strong"

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The first week of life for the National Zoo's new panda cub was filled with lots of cuddles with mom, Mei Xiang, and some caterwauling as we got our first glimpse of the tiny newborn.

The one-week-old cub appears healthy: It shows "good signs" of development and "seems strong," zookeepers say.

When briefly left by Mei Xiang, the cub cried, held up its head and used its legs to lift its body.

Photos: Early Glimpses of National Zoo's Newborn Panda Cub

"These are all good signs, and Mei Xiang’s cub seems strong," giant panda keeper Marty Dearie said in the cub's day seven update.

The panda's iconic black markings around the eyes are just starting to become visible. Zookeepers are able to see more black patches develop on its legs and back. Anyone keeping track of the Giant Panda Cam can also look for the cub's ears to turn black over the next few days.

Mei Xiang sleeps with her one-week-old panda cub on the morning of Aug. 29, 2020. Zookeepers say sleeping on her side is a new, and more comfortable, position for Mei Xiang, who has had three other surviving cubs. She kept the other cubs tucked under her arm. (Photo via Smithsonian National Zoo's Giant Panda Cam)

Glimpses of the new zoo baby are still a special treat, however. Just-born pandas can't regulate their body temperature very well, so mothers forgo food and water in the first days to keep them warm. Mei Xiang has kept the cub tucked close most of the time, out of view of the panda cam, as she rests and nurses.

Very early Thursday, however, Mei Xiang briefly put the cub on the floor of her den twice to get a drink of water.

The white-colored, almost translucent-looking cub propped itself up to cry for attention. It almost sounded like a squeaky toy, but experts say the noisy cries and lifting itself off the floor are signs of healthy development.

Mei Xiang has left a few times since, for a minute or less at a time. She has quickly returned to her squealing cub and given it comforting licks.

"Now that Mei Xiang has started leaving her den to drink, this is a positive sign that the cub can stay warm on its own for short periods," Dearie wrote in the cub's day six update.

Mei Xiang will spend longer stretches of time outside the small den where she spends time with her cub, zookeepers say. Once she feels comfortable enough to leave for a few minutes and eat some bamboo, the cub can get its first check-up.

That's when the zookeepers can check its body parts, weigh and measure the cub and take a DNA cheek swab that will reveal its sex.

D.C. is buzzing with excitement over the birth of a new giant panda cub. For now, keepers are monitoring mom and baby through the zoo's panda cams. News4's Derrick Ward reports why zookeepers say this was a miracle birth.

Mei Xiang, now 22, has previously given birth to three surviving cubs: male Tai Shan July 9, 2005, female Bao Bao Aug. 23, 2013, and male Bei Bei Aug. 22, 2015. All three now live in China, per an agreement between China and the U.S. The youngest of the three, Bei Bei, departed for his new life just last fall.

This March, Mei Xiang was once again artificially inseminated with semen from the zoo's resident male giant panda, Tian Tian.

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