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#PandaStory: Cub Day 19

  • Giant panda Mei Xiang holds her small cub in her arms. The cub has small visible claws and has started to get its black and white markings

Our giant panda cub is growing! As our newborn packs on the grams, it is becoming a bit easier to spot on the Panda Cam. Now that the cub’s markings have come in, we have a few weeks to go before the next big milestone. Generally, newborn giant pandas open their eyes between 6 and 8 weeks of age. We can see that its eyes are still sealed when we zoom in with the Panda Cam. Many viewers have noticed that the cub’s tail appears smaller as it grows. At birth, a giant panda’s tail measures about 5 centimeters in length—roughly a quarter of its body size. In time, cubs grow into their tails. Over the next few weeks, we will also see our cub’s fur transform from soft and wispy to wooly and thick.

The cub is acclimating to its surroundings well and does not protest as much when Mei Xiang places it on the floor of the den. When the cub was just 5 days old, it let out some hearty squeals! Now, it mostly makes a grunting vocalization, which is normal for a giant panda cub at this age.   

As we mentioned in our previous update, the Panda Team is beginning to see Mei Xiang’s appetite return. Mei Xiang always has access to several stalks of bamboo both inside her den and just outside in her large enclosure. She sampled some sugar cane Sept. 2 and started consuming bamboo Sept. 5, when the cub was 15 days old. This timing is consistent with all three of her past cubs, female Bao Bao and males Tai Shan and Bei Bei.

Twice daily, our team enters the keeper area of Mei Xiang’s den to offer her something to eat and drink. (A safety barrier keeps the human and animal spaces separated.) When they do so, the Panda Cam is temporarily switched to our adult male, Tian Tian. Mei Xiang drinks up to 30 ounces of apple juice diluted with water daily. Monday, Sept. 7, was the first day she showed interest in leafeater biscuits. She munched on a few, along with bamboo. Today, she ate some pear. Mei Xiang remains very focused on caring for her cub, and we continue to be encouraged by the behaviors we see.

This story appears in the Sept. 9 issue of the Giant Panda Bulletin. Planning a visit to the Zoo? Please note that Asia Trail, including giant panda viewing, will be temporarily closed beginning Sept. 14 for repaving.