#PandaStory: Packing on the Pounds

This update was written by Laurie Thompson, assistant curator of giant pandas.

After weeks of anticipation, our colleagues at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute’s Center for Conservation Genomics analyzed our giant panda cub’s DNA and determined that we have a male! I am looking forward to the cub taking his first steps in the next few weeks and watching him explore his habitat here at the Zoo. I wonder if his personality will be more like mother Mei Xiang’s or father Tian Tian’s? 

The weather was beautiful yesterday, so the panda team set up some of Mei Xiang’s favorite enrichment items in her outdoor yard. (Read all about our giant and red panda enrichment program here.) While she was outside, keepers retrieved her cub from the den for a brief exam.

He was quiet and sleepy while we took his measurements. This week, he seemed to experience a growth spurt. He weighed 2.07 kilograms (4.5 pounds)—nearly a pound more than last week—and measured 15 inches from nose to tail tip. Our plump panda added an entire inch around his midsection! His abdominal girth measured 12.5 inches Sept. 30. Yesterday, that increased to 13.7 inches. All in all, we are happy that our cub is making good gains, and his growth and development are right on track.

The Smithsonian's National Zoo's giant panda cub weighs 4.5 pounds.
The panda team weighs the cub by placing him in a basket atop a scale. He weighed 4.5 pounds Oct. 7, 2020. 

As my colleague Marty mentioned in last week’s update, the cub’s eyes have started to open. Now, they are fully open. If you are watching the Giant Panda Cam, you may notice the cub react to the noises around him—his ear canals should be fully open soon!

This story appears in the Oct. 8 issue of the Giant Panda Bulletin. Read previous panda 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.