The Cub's Fourth Week
August 5: A Record Outing
Mei Xiang ate once yesterday morning and twice in the afternoon. She drank water during the last outing. Urine and fecal samples were collected for the labs.
On her second excursion yesterday, she was away from the cub for the longest period so far—34 minutes. Many Zoo staff were able to witness this, as it coincided with our all-staff meeting to welcome the Zoo's new director, John Berry. On the large screen of the Visitor Center's auditorium was the cub for all to see. He was left flat on his back in the nest and twitched and grunted but did not seem at all uncomfortable. While he was in this position, we noticed that he has black lip liner like Mei Xiang. He still is unable to turn over.
This morning, the cub was visible in the nest by Mei's face for 25 minutes. We have noticed him lifting his head or slightly bobbing it.
August 4: Mei Enjoys Bamboo Carryout While Tian Enjoys Fruitcicles
Mei Xiang is leaving the cub more regularly. She left it twice yesterday afternoon for several minutes. During these outings she investigated the indoor exhibit, selected her bamboo, and either sat down to eat or took a piece back to the den—panda carryout! She dragged the bamboo into the den carefully and deliberately so as not to disturb the cub in any way. Usually, when she brings bamboo into the den, she leaves it and picks up the cub. During her second excursion yesterday, Mei also had a drink of water and defecated. This morning she left the den to eat for six minutes. She is still very focused on the cub and barely gives us a glance as we work in adjacent areas.
Tian Tian continues to handle his new solitary life extremely well. The keepers give him extra attention and enrichment activities. One of the latest enrichment creations involves taking his fruitcicle (frozen fruit, apple juice, and water) and wrapping it in brown paper. Once wrapped, it is placed into a milk crate and pieces of bamboo are put through the openings to hold it securely in the crate. With a little luck, Tian may get an extra few minutes out of a fruitcicle this way.
August 3: Mei Eats More Bamboo
After the excitement of the first cub exam yesterday morning, Mei Xiang and the cub settled back down into their routine. Mei cradled and licked the cub periodically and slept. She left the den at 2:28 p.m. to pull a piece of bamboo into the den. She also left the cub two more times yesterday afternoon to eat. She continues to eat only her bamboo.
August 2: It's a Boy!
This morning, Mei left the cub at 8:10 to get a drink of water and eat some bamboo for several minutes in the nearby indoor exhibit. While she was urinating and defecating, we closed the den door to assess Mei's reaction. Since Mei did not react to the door being closed, we went to retrieve the cub for its first exam. We were wobbly kneed with excitement.
At the cub's first exam, conducted by Dr. Sharon Deem, associate veterinarian, Laurie Perry, animal keeper, and Lisa Stevens, assistant curator, we learned that it's a boy! He looks healthy, weighs 1.82 pounds (825.7 grams), and has a total body length of 12 inches (30 cm). We were able to get a heart rate and respiration. The cub was very quiet during the nine-minute exam, and let out only one squawk when its mouth was examined. It is very solid and sturdy and extremely cute.
Mei Xiang was given access to her cub at 8:36 a.m. During the exam, she had been anxious, standing up and pawing at the door, and attempting to open the window. When the door was opened, she immediately retrieved the cub and examined it. She settled down quickly, curling up in her favorite position, enveloping the cub between her body and the wall, and went to sleep. What a morning for all of us!
Yesterday evening, Mei Xiang left the cub to eat twice. She listened intently to the cub while she ate just outside the den doorway. One ear seems always to be turned in the cub's direction.
August 1: Hundreds of Cub Vocalizations
The past three days have been uneventful. Mei and the cub are doing fine. The cub continues to look bigger every day. It is more and more visible when it is held or being repositioned. Some nursing has been observed, usually lasting only one to three minutes at a time, although one session was recorded for seven minutes.
The most common vocalization from the cub is grunting. We recorded 278 in a three-hour shift—a record for our cub! It is believed that this vocalization may correlate with nursing. Mei continues to place the cub briefly in the nest as though she is thinking about leaving, but then picks it up again.
We can see fairly clearly when Mei is licking the cub's ano-genital area to stimulate urination and defecation. However, we cannot see clearly enough to determine whether it is a boy or girl! The cub looks pink and squeaky clean when we get a look at it from the den door.
July 31: Answers to some of your questions
Many of you have written to us from around the world to share your excitement about the cub, praise Mei's mothering skills, and ask questions about our pandas. Mother and Cub FAQs
July 30: Three Weeks Old Today
Yes, it's hard to believe it's been three weeks already since the birth of the cub. By all accounts, Mei is adapting to motherhood perfectly and the cub is growing before our eyes, already showing the distinctive black and white markings.
Mei stayed with her cub all day yesterday, never venturing out from her den. She nibbles on the bamboo she has stored in her den over the past few days.
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