If you've lived in the D.C. area for more than a couple of years, it probably came as no surprise when the National Zoo's latest giant panda cub ... didn't exactly look like a panda. The newborn's arrival on Aug. 21 thrilled panda fans across the region. But, born hairless, helpless and almost incomprehensibly tiny, newborn pandas look more like small rodents at birth than the cuddly black-and-white creatures that end up tipping the scales at 200+ pounds.
Now, adorable new photos from the National Zoo show that Mei Xiang's little one is putting on weight and quickly growing fur. The cub is now more than 3 weeks old. On Sunday, zookeepers were able to snag the baby for its very first vet exam after Mei Xiang briefly left the den.
Photos: Early Glimpses of National Zoo's Newborn Panda Cub
The zoo said the "active and responsive" cub weighed in at 634.8 grams, or just under 1.5 pounds. The cub's black markings have appeared, and its fur is growing in, although its pink skin is still visible at its muzzle, the top of its head, its upper back and its tail.
"We are encouraged to see that our young panda appears to be healthy and vibrant," the zoo said on its website.
The exam was a quick one, because vets didn't want to upset the cub's protective mama. That means they haven't yet gotten the chance to take a DNA sample from the cub for the big reveal -- whether the cub is male or female. At this young age, cubs are all similar in appearance, so the DNA check will be the most accurate way to tell for sure, the zoo said.
Other milestones are also on the way for the little cub. Its eyes and ear canals will begin to open in another few weeks, the zoo said.
The panda house at the National Zoo is currently closed to provide a quiet environment for Mei Xiang and her baby. Outdoor habitats and viewing areas remain open. You can also keep up with the pandas 24/7 on the zoo's panda cams.