Mei Xiang has not been a willing participant in the panda team's efforts to switch the cubs since 2 p.m. yesterday afternoon. She has the larger cub in her possession. The panda team is caring for the smaller cub and will continue efforts to swap the cubs about every four hours. However, because the smaller cub has been away from Mei, the panda team is now managing it more intensely. The little cub's behaviors are good. The team is concerned about its fluctuating weight since the cub is now more than 48 hours old. The most important thing for the panda team is to help the cub get enough fluids and nutrients. To accomplish this, they are bottle and tube feeding the cub. The cub has shown some signs of regurgitation which can lead to aspiration in such a tiny creature. To be prudent, the veterinarians are administering antibiotics to prevent possible infection. It's very important to keep the cub hydrated so they are alternating an infant electrolyte solution with formula and administering fluids under the skin. The cub is urinating and defecating well. The veterinarians have not seen any sign of respiratory distress.
Our observations of the larger cub from yesterday indicate it is doing well and we're confident Mei Xiang is taking very good care of it. We remain in a high-risk period.
We've received a lot of questions about the tiny size of the panda cubs. Bear cubs have the smallest infant-to-mother size ratio of any placental mammal at approx. 1 to 700. Mei Xiang currently weighs about 238 pounds. One of the cubs weighed 86 grams at birth, a 1 to 1,256 ratio of cub to mom. The larger cub weighed 138 grams at birth, a 1 to 783 ratio of cub to mom.
Asia Trail keepers (who successfully hand-reared a sloth bear named Remi last year), additional veterinarian staff and a panda keeper from Zoo Atlanta have been well integrated into the panda team. The entire Zoo community appreciates the outpouring of well-wishes from around the world.
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Photo Credit: Shellie Pick, Smithsonian's National Zoo
Photo Caption: Keeper Stacey Tabellario bottle feeds the smaller of the two giant panda cubs.