San Diego Zoo's Baby Panda Has First Checkup

Image credit: Ken Bohn/San Diego Zoo/AP Photo

A tiny, unnamed baby panda, just 25 days old, had its first check up exam on Thursday and passed with flying colors.

Zoo veterinarians were able to evaluate the cub's overall health but were only given a few minutes to do so in order to not cause the mother, Bai Yun, any stress.

"The exam was very short, just about three minutes," said Victoria Girdler, a senior keeper in the panda area, who was present for the exam. "It was the first one, so we just wanted to do a quick check of fingers, toes, weight, eyes."

And in just three minutes, the zoo veterinarians deemed it was a healthy baby cub, weighing just over a pound.

"We're still not sure of the gender yet," Girdler said. "For that, we have to check a couple of times over the next few exams."

Before they could conduct the exam, the team of vets and keepers had to make sure the cub was ready to be taken away from its mother.

"One of the things keepers do to make sure it stays calm is take a blanket rubbed in mama's smell and set it under the baby so it is comfortable."

The team had to make sure Bai Yun was ready for the exam, too.

"What we did was watch to see when Bai Yun would go out of the den to eat on a regular basis," Girdler said. "We had seen her come out of the den to eat at that same time over the past few days, so we knew she was comfortable enough to leave the baby. We practiced closing the door a few times for a minute here and there and she showed all the signs of being ready."

As soon as Bai Yun indicated that she wasn't happy, the exam ended.

"It made a cry out, which Bai Yun did hear, which is why the exam was pretty short," Girdler said. "If there were any signs of her being uncomfortable, we made sure to put it back in the den with mama."

But even though it caused interruption, the cause meant a healthy cub.

"A good cry means that the lungs are doing well, too," Girdler said. Just one more sign that baby panda is healthy.

"Bai Yun is such a great mom," Girdler said. "She snuggles, she bonds with it, she cleans it and takes care of it. It's an amazing bond to see."

There are only roughly 1,600 giant pandas left in the world. The San Diego Zoo is just one of four zoos in the U.S. to have pandas.