Big news! Last night, our Panda Team observed giant panda Mei Xiang approach the doorway of her den several times, “testing” her cub’s reaction to being placed on the floor. Then, early this morning, she twice left the den to get a drink of water — once at 4:27 a.m. and once at 5:59 a.m. Each time, she only spent about one minute away. Her brief reprieve offered Panda Cam viewers a great look at the growing cub! Upon her return, Mei Xiang immediately picked up her cub and cradled it.
Newborn giant pandas rely on their mothers for warmth, since they have little fur and cannot regulate their own body temperature. During the first few days of a cub’s life, a mother panda forgoes eating and drinking to stay with her offspring. Now that Mei Xiang has started leaving her den to drink, this is a positive sign that the cub can stay warm on its own for short periods.
Over the next few days, we expect Mei Xiang will gradually spend more time away from the den. Eventually, she will feel comfortable leaving the cub for a few minutes while she eats bamboo in her indoor habitat. At that point, the Panda Team will conduct a quick exam of the cub. Mei Xiang’s behavior will dictate how much time keepers have with the cub, but we hope to do a quick check of its body parts, obtain its weight and measurements, and take a cheek swab, which will allow us to analyze the cub’s DNA and determine its sex.This story appears in the Aug. 27 issue of the Giant Panda Bulletin.