Smithsonian National Zoological Park l Friends of the National Zoo



The Cub's Second Week

July 22: Happy Birthday, Mei Xiang!

panda cub
In this image from the web cam, the cub's dark markings are visible.

As the cub grows, we get to see more of its little body in her arms. Last night, its head was visible under Mei's head as she slept. The cub looks frosted because its hair is thickening and getting longer.

Today is Mei's seventh birthday. Pandas may raise five to eight cubs in their lifetime. This cub is Mei's first.

July 20-21: A Portrait of Maternal Care

Over the past 24 hours, Mei has placed the cub in the nest six or seven times for brief periods. At one point when the cub's legs were paddling out from under Mei's chin, we could see its tiny claws. This morning, from 9:10 to 9:19 a.m., Mei Xiang again placed the cub in the nest and laid her head next to it as they both rested. This is the longest period that the cub has not been in contact with Mei. Mei started to honk and the cub responded to her vocalizations, sounding like it was trying to honk. Her large head beside the cub's tiny body forms a perfect portrait of panda maternal care.

We continue to marvel at how she can turn her body with the cub tucked under her chin in one fluid motion. She can do this on her back without us ever getting a glimpse of the cub.

July 19: Dark Shadows Appear on Cub's Hind Legs

Mei Xiang placed the cub in the nest for one- to two-minute periods four times since the last update. The cub has dark shadows on its hind legs now.

Some panda cam viewers have wondered how Mei's den compares to a den she might have in the wild. In China's Wolong Reserve, pandas make their dens in large hollow conifers, with a diameter of about three feet. But elsewhere, where trees are absent due to logging, pandas use rock caves as dens, with a little bedding of twigs, for the cub's first 100 days. Then they move to areas of dense bamboo. Scientists have measured the floor space of several tree dens used in the past: 39 by 43 inches, 35 by 41 inches, and 35 by 37 inches; one cave den measured 33 by 39 inches.

July 18: Mei Carries Cub Nearly All the Time

Mei Xiang again left the cub to get a drink of water yesterday at 4:18 p.m. She looked closely at the leaf-eater biscuits and bamboo but did not eat anything. She urinated, and samples were collected for urinalysis and endocrinology. She returned to the cub in five minutes. Except for a few brief episodes lasting less than a minute, Mei Xiang has carried the cub constantly over the past day.

The cub is very quiet when it is lying in the nest. You can see its markings more distinctly. San Diego Zoo staff described their second cub, born in 2003, as very quiet when it was left in the nest. Perhaps young cubs are quieter at this stage because they would be more vulnerable to predation as their mothers begin to leave them to feed and drink.

July 17: Mei Xiang Observes Her Cub

Mei placed the cub on the nest and observed it several times in the afternoon and evening. The cub was very quiet during these times and did not squeal, but emitted low grunts. It appeared to try to crawl and stand during a six-minute period in the nest a little after 10 p.m. The cub's darkening eyes, ears, and shoulders are now apparent. It has a very round belly and, with its longer hair and markings, looks like a guinea pig.

July 16: Mei Takes Another Drink of Water

The cub is a week old as of 3:41 a.m.! We can see little black patches around its eyes. Mei did not leave the cub last night, as she did at 10:50 p.m. on Thursday night. At 3:33 p.m. today, Mei left the cub in the nest and entered the indoor exhibit to get another long drink. She was gone for three minutes.

She continues to tend to the cub. It is very touching the way she curls in a ball and envelops the cub. She presses her face into the wall to sleep. With the volume turned up to monitor cub vocalizations, keepers discovered that Mei snores.

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