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#PandaStory: Fruitsicles and Feistiness

  • The Zoo's 7-week-old giant panda cub receives a routine check-up.
    Giant panda keepers measure the growth of the Zoo's 7-week-old cub during its weekly exam.
  • The Zoo's 7-week-old giant panda cub receives a routine check-up.
    The Zoo's 7-week-old giant panda cub tips the scales at 5.4 pounds.
  • The Zoo's 7-week-old panda cub receives a routine check-up at Smithsonian's National Zoo.
    The giant panda cub measures 16.5 inches long from the tip of his nose to the base of his tail.

Tomorrow, our giant panda cub will be eight weeks old! Mei Xiang has always been a devoted mother to her cubs, and this little guy is no exception. She still spends the majority of her time in the den with him. Lately, he’s been practicing crawling in the area where there is no bedding. An ever-watchful mom, Mei Xiang allows her son to let out some of his energy but doesn’t let him venture too far.

Yesterday afternoon, Mei Xiang left the den to eat a fruitsicle—a frozen treat made from diluted apple juice. While she snacked in her large enclosure, keepers entered the den and retrieved the cub for a brief exam.

I mentioned in my last update that both of his eyes are fully open. This week, it was apparent that his ears are open as well. When keepers entered the den, he vocalized at the sound of the door opening. While he was on the exam table, he turned his head as we called out his measurements to see where our voices were coming from.

He was much more feisty yesterday than he has been for past exams and barked as he was being measured. Since his last weigh-in Oct. 7, he gained a pound. Now, he tips the scales at 2.47 kilograms (5.4 pounds). From the tip of his nose to the base of his tail, he measured 16.5 inches. His biggest gain, however, was around his midsection. He went from a 13.7-inch abdominal girth to 15.9 inches—a 2.2-inch increase!

Mei Xiang has started carrying her cub to the door and several feet out into the enclosure. Now that he’s getting older, she will start to bring him on these “field trips” more frequently.

This story appears in the Oct. 15 issue of the Giant Panda Bulletin. Check out Mei Xiang and her cub on the Giant Panda Cam, and read previous cub updates here. Planning a visit to the Zoo? Please note that Asia Trail—including giant panda viewing—is temporarily closed to visitors for the scheduled repaving of walkways.