The Cub's Seventh Week
August 26: With Open Eyes, Cub Looks Even Cuter
The cub's eyes were first noted to be open at about 4:15 yesterday afternoon. There has been no apparent change in his behavior since then. However, now that his eyes are open, we think he looks even cuter, smarter, and more engaging than any other panda cub, ever!
Mei comes to the windows regularly to take pieces of fruit. She looks great. After all the hard work and fasting she appears to be in good weight. We continue to work toward shifting her to the patio area and onto the scale. Yesterday, we weighed Tian Tian at 276 pounds. He is enjoying the recent cooler temperatures and lower humidity, and stays outdoors all day.
August 25 Update: Cub Opens Eyes
They are open! The panda cub's eyes are now open! We just noted this at 4:15 p.m., Day 47.
August 25: Mei Enters Training Cage, Cub Responds to Mei, Voting for Cub's Name and Fundraising Challenge Begin
Mei Xiang went into the training cage when asked by her trainer and keeper, Brenda Morgan, yesterday afternoon. She spent four minutes in the cage eating pieces of leaf-eater biscuit, apple, and pear. She responded to "touch" and "open mouth". She sniffed the enclosure and listened to Asia Trail construction, and then returned to the den when Brenda called her to come inside. We will continue to make this request regularly. Mei Xiang enjoys participating in training and loves the attention she gets when she does a behavior. Well, she certainly enjoys all the treats.
The cub has been seen lifting his head and responding to Mei's vocalizations and movements, orienting his head toward her. He also was seen lifting his tail as pandas do when they are about to defecate. Very cute, a behavior perhaps only zookeepers appreciate.
August 24: Cub Grows Stronger, Turns Over
The cub has been seen turning from its back onto its belly. It also has been seen using its hind legs to push up closer to Mei. It is hard to believe that those legs can push that big, round belly forward.
Mei was invited to come out to the training cage for a piece of apple or pear yesterday. Her first response was a wheezy huff, and two more with the second request. Mei then returned to the den to pick up the cub. The training cage is a specially designed area where Mei and Tian participate in medical procedures such as ultrasounds and blood draws. The pandas enjoy their sessions in the training cage because they receive positive reinforcement in the form of praise and food. Mei has not been in the enclosure since before the cub's birth but previously entered it readily.
August 23: Reviewing the Cub's First Weeks
Nothing new to report, so we thought we'd recap the past few weeks. Mei waited until the cub was six days old before putting him down to have a drink of water. During his second week, the cub's eyes, ears, shoulders, and hind legs began darkening, and Mei laid him down several times. In the third week, Mei broke her fast, leaving the den to eat some bamboo. In the fourth week, the cub was examined for the first time. We learned he was a boy, weighed him at 1.82 pounds, and measured him at 12 inches long. Mei ate more and more and left the cub for more than 30 minutes. During week five, we observed the cub's developing motor skills, and examined him for the second time—2.6 pounds and 14 1/4 inches long. Last week, the cub's rapid growth could be seen from one day to the next, and at his third exam, he weighed 4.2 pounds and measured 17 inches long. What's next? Only time will tell.
August 22: Yet Another Record
On Saturday afternoon, Mei rested on the platform of the den with the cub more than one body length (Mei's body) away for three hours—a new record! She continues to leave the cub more frequently and for longer periods of time.
The cub now has a round panda head. We are all so glad she is leaving him so that we can enjoy watching him more often.
August 21: When the Public Can See the Cub Still Uncertain
We can't predict yet when the public will be able to visit our giant panda cub at the Zoo. He is Mei Xiang's first baby, so we will be following her lead to determine when she and the cub are ready for visitors. So far, Mei Xiang has not carried the cub with her when she leaves the den to eat, and we don't know when she will begin to do so. In the wild, cubs are regularly seen outside of their birth den when they are about four months of age. But this gives us just a rough estimate of when our cub might be out of its den. Once Mei Xiang starts bringing her cub out of the den, we will want to be sure that both are very comfortable with people coming inside the David M. Rubenstein Family Giant Panda Habitat before we invite the public for a first peek.
August 20: Cub Is Six Weeks Old Today
Now six weeks old, the panda cub continues to thrive. He is just starting to lift his body on his legs, but his eyes still aren't open. Mei Xiang is eating more, and not holding her baby as much. Instead, she puts him in the nest and rests next to him.
The cub doesn't have a name yet. Following Chinese custom, he will be named when he is 100 days old.
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