Washington zoo conducts first checkup for newborn panda cub

WASHINGTON (XINHUA) – The Smithsonian National Zoo has conducted the first neonatal exam on the panda cub born three weeks ago at the zoo, finding it “strong and healthy.”

“During the quick check-up, keepers weighed the active and responsive newborn. It tips the scales at 634.8 grammes,” according to a daily bulletin published on the zoo’s website on Monday. “We are encouraged to see that our young panda appears to be healthy and vibrant.

“At a glance, the cub’s wispy fur is growing in nicely. Its bright, pink skin still shows in spots on its muzzle, the top of its head, upper back and tail,” the zoo said. “In another few weeks, its eyes and ear canals will begin to open.”

In addition to a full medical exam by the zoo’s veterinarians on the cub in the near future, an upcoming cheek swab is also expected to enable scientists to confirm the cub’s sex via DNA analysis, according to the zoo.

“Outwardly, cubs appear similar at birth, so this is the most accurate way to determine whether we have a male or female,” it said.

Giant panda Tian Tian at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo in Washington DC. PHOTO: XINHUA

The zoo also said some “rodent visitors” have been spotted “occasionally running through the den” where the cub’s mother, 22-year-old Mei Xiang, is caring for her baby.

However, Mei Xiang “is a 200-pound bear with strong instincts to protect her cub. No rodent – however clever or cunning – poses a serious threat to either of them,” the zoo said.

Mei Xiang gave birth to the cub on August 21, the seventh since she and male giant panda Tian Tian began living in the zoo in 2000. Three of her cubs have survived to adulthood.

The female giant panda was artificially inseminated in March this year with frozen semen collected from Tian Tian.

The Smithsonian National Zoo, located in northwestern Washington DC has a decades-long partnership with Chinese scientists and curators on conserving giant pandas.