National Zoo’s panda gives birth
Washington, D.C., United States (4E) – The 14-year-old giant panda at Smithsonian’s National Zoo gave birth last Sunday and became a reality TV star on Monday.
CNN reported that zoo director Dennis Kelly said he is cautiously optimistic as he has yet to see the cub, but he vows that Mei is a good mother. “Like everyone else, I’m glued to the panda cam for my first glimpse of the cub!,” he added.
Kelly is thrilled with Mei Xiang’s pregnancy since 2005. This is the second successful pregnancy of Mei Xiang, with 15-year-old Tian Tian, the zoo’s male giant panda, in seven years.
The “panda cam” that tracks the David M. Rubenstein Family Giant Panda Habitat has been visited by so many people that the streaming video online is getting jammed most of the time.
Considered to be one of the most endangered species in the world, the rising curiosity of the observers are due partly to the new cub and mostly to the rarity of seeing pandas. There are only around 1,900 pandas still surviving.
Pandas also have a low success rate when it comes to mating. Mei Xiang has to be artificially inseminated several times before she eventually got pregnant. The new panda mother has only less than 10% chance of conceiving a cub after five consecutive pseudopregnancies since 2007.
In a statement from the National Zoo, timing was definitely a contributing factor for Mei Xiang as she returned to a more normal estrus cycle this April compared from her January cycle between 2009 to 2011.
Mei Xiang and Tian Tian are part of the Giant Panda Cooperative Research and Breeding Agreement signed in January 2011 by the zoo and the China Wildlife Conservation Association.
The arrangement is a means to support scientists research on the panda, preserve the species, and breed them. The zoo’s giant panda program is extended until 2015.
Speaking before a crowd of reporters, the zoo director said “that the most important thing is research to help save this species and lots of other species. Conservation is costly, saving species is costly, and we’re proud to participate.”
Watch the live streaming online by visiting the Smithsonian National Zoo’s website.