Sept. 14 | 24 Days Old
Exciting news! When giant panda Mei Xiang left the den yesterday to eat some bamboo, the panda team was able to retrieve her 3-week-old cub for its first neonatal exam.
During the quick checkup, keepers weighed the active and responsive newborn. It tips the scales at 634.8 grams—just under 1.5 pounds! We are encouraged to see that our young panda appears to be healthy and vibrant.
At a glance, the cub’s wispy fur is growing in nicely. Its bright, pink skin still shows in spots on its muzzle, the top of its head, upper back and tail. In another few weeks, its eyes and ear canals will begin to open.
Sept. 18 | 28 Days Old
It’s hard to believe that our giant panda cub is four weeks old! We are encouraged that the newborn appears to be growing well. This is a sign that it is getting good nutrition from mother Mei Xiang’s milk. The cub is getting so big that it is much more visible on the Panda Cam now (especially when getting fed or groomed).
In the wild, a giant panda mother spends much of her cub’s first month of life feeding, holding and keeping it warm. Mei Xiang has followed a similar pattern of behavior. Now that our cub is growing into the pandas’ signature ‘plump,’ it is starting to regulate its own body temperature. At the same time, we are seeing a steady progression in Mei Xiang’s appetite.
This week, she chose to leave her den up to three times a day and for as long as 18 minutes to eat and drink. Mei Xiang has her pick of two species of bamboo to eat, plus leaf eater biscuits, which are calorically dense. As the cub gets older, she will leave for longer periods. Meantime, our panda team continues to offer Mei Xiang juice and water and her favorite fruit—apples and pears—twice daily from the staff space adjacent to her den. When we do so, the Panda Cam is temporarily switched to our adult male, Tian Tian.
Interestingly, Mei Xiang has followed a similar eating schedule with all of her cubs. With Tai Shan (b. 2005), she ate bamboo for the first time since giving birth on day 16. Following Bao Bao (b. 2013) and Bei Bei’s (b. 2015) births, she took her first taste of bamboo on day 14. And, as we noted with this cub in a previous update, she started consuming bamboo when it was 15 days old.
Sept. 21 | First Veterinary Exam
Our giant panda cub has reached a big milestone—today marks one month since its birth Aug. 21! On Saturday morning, Sept. 19, Mei Xiang placed her cub on the floor of the den and stepped into the adjacent enclosure. This presented the perfect opportunity to conduct another brief exam on the cub.
We closed the door to the den, retrieved the cub and placed it on a soft towel. This time, Zoo veterinarians joined the Panda Team for the exam. The cub weighed 952 grams, or just over two pounds. From nose to tail tip, the cub measured 34 centimeters, or 13.4 inches (its tail accounts for two of those inches).
Veterinarians were also able to take a quick swab of our cub’s cheek for DNA analysis. Outwardly, male and female cubs appear similar at birth, so a genetic test is the most accurate way to determine whether our cub is a male or female. They took the swab to our Center for Conservation Genomics, where Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute scientists will confirm the cub’s sex. We should have an answer in the next few weeks.
Sept. 25 | The Cub’s Growing Girth
When Mei Xiang left her den to grab a bite to eat this morning, we had another opportunity to conduct a brief exam on our 1-month-old giant panda cub. The newborn was quite sleepy when we retrieved it from the den and napped through much of the excitement.
As of this morning, the cub weighed 1,337 grams, or just under three pounds. From nose to tail tip, it measured 35.5 centimeters, or 13.9 inches (its tail accounts for two of those inches). For the first time, we had a chance to measure the cub’s abdominal girth as well. It’s back and belly measured 32 centimeters, or 12.5 inches in circumference. Our plump panda cub is almost as round as it is long!