Protective Panda Mom Prevents 2nd Exam of Cub

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Photo credit: Courtney Janney, Smithsonian National Zoo

Photo credit: Courtney Janney, Smithsonian National Zoo

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LANHAM, Md. (CBSDC) — Attempts by the panda team at the National Zoo to distract new mom Mei Xiang so they could examine her cub Tuesday were unsuccessful.

The baby, born Friday, was first examined on Sunday and determined to be “vibrant, healthy and active.” The team wants to perform regular check-ups, however, to ensure that it continues to grow and develop at a normal pace.

When members of the team attempted to get the cub out of the enclosure it shares with Mei Xiang Tuesday morning, “she persistently moved out of reach,” zookeepers said.

“It’s clear that she was holding tight to the cub and did not want to give it up.”

Mei Xiang was agitated when the cub was taken away from her Sunday, pacing and growling in her den, but she calmed down immediately after the cub was returned to her and she began cradling it.

Mei Xiang and the cub are still under constant observation.

A second cub was stillborn Saturday night, but zookeepers were still overjoyed at the prospect of one healthy cub given that pandas are critically endangered and breeding them in captivity has proved difficult, especially in Washington.

Mei Xiang gave birth to her only other surviving cub, a male named Tai Shan, in 2005. Tai Shan enjoyed rock star status before he was returned to China in 2010. China owns the pandas at the National Zoo.

Mei Xiang delivered another cub last year after several years of failed breeding, but it died after six days. Its lungs hadn’t fully developed and likely weren’t sending enough oxygen to its liver.

Following that disappointment, zookeepers changed their protocols for newborn pandas in consultation with Chinese breeders. An exam within 48 hours of birth is one of the new procedures.

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