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Mei Xiang, Giant Panda At National Zoo, Gives Birth To A Cub

Mei Xiang, who gave birth Friday, enjoying a piece of fruit on Dec. 19, 2011, at the National Zoo. i i

Mei Xiang, who gave birth Friday, enjoying a piece of fruit on Dec. 19, 2011, at the National Zoo. Fang Zhe /Xinhua /Landov hide caption

itoggle caption Fang Zhe /Xinhua /Landov
Mei Xiang, who gave birth Friday, enjoying a piece of fruit on Dec. 19, 2011, at the National Zoo.

Mei Xiang, who gave birth Friday, enjoying a piece of fruit on Dec. 19, 2011, at the National Zoo.

Fang Zhe /Xinhua /Landov

The Smithsonian National Zoo has some happy news this evening: Mei Xiang, a giant panda, gave birth to a cub at 5:32 p.m. ET.

In some ways this was a surprise, as the zoo did not know the panda was pregnant until earlier this month, when she began to act like she was expecting.

The zoo says their panda team heard the cub vocalize and saw Mei Xiang cradle her cub.

The zoo reports in a press release:

"For the first time this year scientists used another test developed by the Memphis Zoo which analyzed Mei Xiang's levels of prostaglandin metabolite (a fatty acid) to narrow the window when she would give birth or experience a pseudopregnancy. Scientists at the Memphis Zoo performed the analysis and determined that if Mei Xiang were pregnant she would likely give birth during the last week of August. If she were not, her pseudopregnancy would have likely ended in early September."

Now for the sobering part of the news: Remember baby pandas are fragile. Mei Xiang gave birth to a cub in September of 2012. Unfortunately, the cub died a few days later due to lung and liver damage.

As it does on these occasions the zoo has its panda cam up and running. Mei Xiang is expected to spend most of the next two weeks in her den with her new cub.

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