The gates at the Smithsonian's National Zoo will open to the public Friday, Oct. 18 after the federal government shutdown. The live animal cams had also been turned off during the government shutdown, including the panda cams. The Zoo's information technology staff began the process of bringing the live animal cams back online Thursday morning, starting with the panda cams. The 15 different cams required federal resources, primarily staff, to operate and were deemed non-essential during a shutdown.
With the return of the cams, panda fans can once again watch the Zoo's 8-week-old cub and her mother Mei Xiang (May-SHONG). Since the panda cams went dark, the cub has grown and passed several developmental milestones. She weighs 5 pounds (2.557 kilograms), up from 3.07 pounds (1.39 kilograms) at her veterinary exam Sept. 26. She also has partially opened her eyes. Keepers noticed that her right eye had started to open Oct. 4. By Oct. 11 both her eyes had partially opened. Her ears are also fully open and she now reacts to the noises she hears in the panda house.
Mei Xiang is leaving the cub for longer periods of time to eat, drink, interact with keepers and venture outside for very short periods of time. She is eating all of her leaf-eater biscuits and produce that keepers offer her every day and approximately 60 percent of her bamboo. On Saturday, Oct. 12 she chose to participate in a training session with keepers in her outdoor training area.
While her mother spends time in other parts of the David M. Rubenstein Family Giant Panda Habitat the cub scoots around the den, though she does not get very far.
She will not be able to walk until she is about four months old, and has not left the den on her own yet. She is strong enough to push herself up on her front two legs and right herself if she is lying on her back. The Zoo will resume providing updates, photos and videos of Mei Xiang and the cub via Facebook, Twitter and the Giant Panda Update e-newsletter today.
Due to the popularity of the panda cams, sponsored in part by the Ford Motor Company Fund, viewers may experience some difficulty streaming the cams when they return. There is a limit on the number of connections they can accommodate, as there before the shutdown. After 15 minutes, viewers will need to refresh the panda cam page if they want to continue to watch the cams. Smartphone users with the National Zoo App can enjoy uninterrupted live streaming via the app.