Panda Cub Is a Girl and Starting to Get Its Black Markings

PHOTO: A newborn female giant panda
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It's a girl!

The national zoo announced today the giant panda baby born Aug. 24 to momma Mei Xiang is a girl and Tian Tian, the male panda at the National Zoo, fathered the new born.

"We have another girl in our family," research scientist Jesus Maldonado said today. "We conducted genetic analysis...and we are proud to announce that the sire is Tian Tian."

Maldonado is a spokesman for the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute and he spoke at its center for Conservation and Evolutionary Genetics.

During the artificial insemination process in late March semen was used from both the Washington panda male Tian Tian and a San Diego male, Gao Gao.

Zoo officials say the young cub grows stronger and healthier every day.

WHAT TO KNOW
  • The National Zoo announced this morning the giant panda baby born August 24 to momma Mei Xiang is a girl and Tian Tian , the male panda at the National Zoo fathered the new born.

"The 10 day mark was really critical in terms of survival," Brandie Smith, senior curator of mammals and giant pandas for the Smithsonian's National Zoo said. "She's passed that 10 day mark and we watch her grow stronger and healthier every single day, so we are finally starting to really celebrate."

The baby, according to Zoo officials, has "a fat little belly" and is "very active."

"It's very vocal. If it needs anything it definitely lets Mei Xiang and the rest of us know that it needs something," Smith said. "Mei Xiang has been a great mother taking care of it."

The officials finally were able to do a quick look at the cub this morning and see she is gaining some fuzz and markings.

"When it was born it was just kind of pale pink, not many markings," Smith said."We're starting to see it's a little bit fuzzy and it's got those great black and white markings that are coming in. So the eye and the ear spots started first, but now we can see the saddle forming across its back... she is just beautiful."

The Zoo will follow Chinese tradition in naming the new cub--meaning they will wait 100 days after birth to pick the new Chinese name.

They plan to work with their Chinese colleagues and hope to engage DC residents to help choose the name.

They also plan to allow the cub to wean naturally, and since the process can take about two years, Mei Xiang is likely to remain in Washington at least that long.

The genetic analysis also determined the stillborn cub, also female, was the fraternal twin to the healthy cub.

It will be another four months or so before the baby girl and her mom are available to the public. According to the National Zoo website, female pandas can produce young every other year at best and may only raise five to eight cubs in their lifetime.

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