National Zoo Welcomes Baby Panda

Giant Pandas Tian Tian and Mei Xiang

Giant panda Mei Xiang (right, shown here in 2002 with male panda Tian Tian) gave birth on July 9 to a giant panda cub, the first for the endangered bears. Reuters hide caption

itoggle caption Reuters

The National Zoo in Washington, D.C. has a tiny new attraction: a five-ounce baby panda bear. Mother Mei Xiang gave birth early Saturday. The zoo's chief veterinarian, Suzan Murray, has more on mother bear and her newborn cub.

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JENNIFER LUDDEN, host:

Here in Washington, the stork has paid a visit to the National Zoo. At 3:41 this morning, giant panda Mei Xiang delivered a healthy cub. Hold off on gifts. We don't know the sex yet. Zoo workers are keeping their distance while mom and baby bond. Five other pandas have been born at the zoo since 1983, but all died within days. Zoo officials are hopeful this one will become the third giant panda born in the US to survive into adulthood. The National Zoo's chief veterinarian Suzan Murray has been watching the newborn and listening in on a video monitor.

Ms. SUZAN MURRAY (Chief Veterinarian, National Zoo): The panda's squeak sounds a little bit--but much louder and sharper than a funny kiss. A little bit like (kissing sound).

LUDDEN: The cub only weighs 5 ounces, but its squeak is so loud it just demands attention from mom.

Ms. MURRAY: As soon as she lays down, the baby starts going (kissing sound). You know, Mei Xiang jumps up, grabs the baby and cuddles her again. I mean, that's what we're hoping for in a mom, that even though she's dead tired and she's been up all night in labor, the minute her baby calls, she is so there.

LUDDEN: And the proud father?

Ms. MURRAY: The father, Tian Tian, bless his heart, is--I don't believe knows what is going on. He got up in the morning and he had his breakfast and he went outside and he's laying down in his air-conditioned grotto outside taking it very easy, completely unaware of the hard work that Mei Xiang has done all night.

LUDDEN: Mei Xiang and her mate Tian Tian are on loan from the Chinese government. Under that agreement, China will also get to name the new cub and will take custody when it turns two. So far the little one is just about the size of a stick of butter, but you can try and get a peek. The National Zoo hopes to set up a Webcam tomorrow.

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