Baby Panda Alert!!! UPDATE: Mei Xiang’s Baby Born 5:35pm! Update Two: Twins!!


@NationalZoo tweets:

“Our panda team believes Mei Xiang is in labor! We’re hoping for a healthy cub.”


“Panda team has confirmed that Mei Xiang’s water broke. Hoping for healthy cub. May take a few hours.”


“Giant panda Mei Xiang (may-SHONG) gave birth to a cub at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo today, Aug. 22. The panda team witnessed the birth at 5:35 pm. Mei Xiang reacted to the cub by picking it up. The panda team began preparing for a birth when they saw Mei Xiang’s water break at 4:32 pm and she was already having contractions. The sex of the cub won’t be determined until a later date.”



@NationalZoo with even more good news:

“We can confirm a second cub was born at 10:07. It appears healthy.”

“The Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute confirms one giant panda cub born at 5:35 p.m. and a second giant panda cub was born at 10:07 p.m., Aug, 22. Shortly after the second birth, a panda team of three keepers retrieved one of the cubs per the Zoo’s Giant Panda Twin Hand-Rearing protocol. The cub was placed in an incubator and cared for by veterinarians and panda keepers.

The panda team believes the first cub they retrieved was the second cub born at 10:07 p.m. This cub continues to vocalize very well and appears healthy. It weighed 138 grams last night and this morning weighed 132.4 grams. The cub has urinated and defecated – all good signs. The team fed the cub three times overnight at 2:20 a.m., 3:40 a.m., and 5:00 a.m. The cub received 30 – 40 percent of the serum it was hand-fed. The serum was banked from blood drawn from Mei Xiang last April during the artificial insemination. The nursing bouts were short but the team considers them successful. The goal was to give the cub antibodies (colostrum alternative) as it had not yet nursed on Mei Xiang. This cub has now been marked with a little green food coloring on its left hip.

At approximately 6:30 a.m. this morning, the panda team was able to swap cubs. The cub they had in the incubator this morning is believed to be the first born, and weighs 86.3 grams. It is vocalizing very well and appears strong. The panda team does not plan to feed this cub as it will be switched back to Mei Xiang in a couple of hours. However, they are prepared to feed the cub if it needed.

The Smithsonian’s National Zoo is one of a few zoos with expert nutritionists on staff. They have prepared formula and trained for this scenario. Formula ingredients include: water; human baby formula; and puppy formula. The ingredients are mixed together and strained to omit clumps. Our concern now is whether Mei Xiang will allow the panda team to consistently swap the cubs. The team developed a few different strategies and will continue to try different methods of swapping and hand-rearing. Much of their methods will be dictated by Mei Xiang.

The panda team will alternately swap the cubs, allowing one to nurse and spend time with Mei Xiang while the other is being bottle fed and kept warm in an incubator. The primary goal for the panda team is for both cubs to have the benefit of nursing and spending time with their mother. It is too early to guess about when the cubs will be placed together.

Giant pandas give birth to twins approximately 50 percent of the time. This is only the third time a giant panda living in the United States has given birth to twins. There are only two other female giant pandas around the world who have successfully reared twins and it required a lot of human support.”

20 Comment

  • National Zoo just announced the cub was born at 5:35 pm 🙂

    • Are they actually twins if they have different fathers? They did mix sperm from two daddies. . .

      • Why wouldn’t they be?

        • I’d say they’re twins because they were gestated and born at the same time. But victoria’s point is well taken that twins usually share two parents; these two might be half-siblings.
          Not knowing anything about panda fertility, it’s probably also possible that they are identical– one egg, one sperm, split into two embryos, genetically exactly the same. It matters because the panda gene pool is so small, and a major concern of the breeding program is to diversify as much as possible. It’s kind of fascinating how this centralized breeding program does its calculations and determines which individuals to breed with which others.

          • Sure but the latter point has nothing to do with whether they are twins really. It is interesting though.

            I’d say they are twins even if they have different fathers. Mei was inseminated artificially – it isn’t like they “did the deed” here. Even if one sperm from one male panda made it to one egg and one sperm from the other male panda made it to the other, it happened at the same time, they were born at the same time. They’re twins. “Twins usually share two parents.” Well, I mean, duh. I would say that is because of timing, which was not an issue here since she was inseminated by both at the same time. That doesn’t typically happen in other situations. The labeling of half siblings is anthropomorphizing a little much for this early on a Monday.

          • Do you actually not understand why the possibility of their being half siblings matters? See again the bit about their carefully managed gene pool. It matters. Even if they’re not human.
            (Anthropomorphizing? We’re talking about their genetics, not the scandal it’ll cause down at the panda junior league if they turn out to have different daddies. “Well, I mean, duh.”)

  • And another panda – second cub born at 10:07 pm!

  • isn’t it unusual that they examine one of the cubs so soon after birth?

    • Post says:
      One of the two was retrieved, following a special protocol for rearing twins, another zoo spokeswoman said. It was placed in an incubator. It was not clear which of the two cubs it was.

      However, the zoo said, both cubs would be given the opportunity to bond with their mother. The zoo’s “panda team” would alternate the cubs between maternal and incubator rearing. One will be nursing and spending time with the mother, while the other would be fed by bottle and kept warm in the incubator.

    • Studies show that there is higher chance of survival for both cubs if they are separated like that… female pandas tend to ignore one of the cub, choosing to raise only the healthiest one…
      However, cub-mother interactions are critical (For example for colostrum), so vets will have to change the cubs in the cage from time to time, expecting that the mother will take care of both, but one at a time…

  • How does such a giant animal give birth to such a tiny cub? Not fair.

    • Yes! I keep watching the video, jealous that the birth looked so easy for her. 5 hours between cubs seems like a very long time to be in labor though!

      • I would imagine the relative easy has less to do with the size of the animal versus the baby and more to do with the size of the opening versus the baby. I do not purport to be an expert on the size of a lady panda’s lady business, but perhaps it is smaller than you think the labor isn’t as easy as it might appear.

        • You could be right, but when I think back to how I must have appeared giving birth whilst screaming like a banshee, I’m still jealous of how awesomely calm she looks!

        • I had to LOL upon reading “I do not purport to be an expert on the size of a lady panda’s lady business.”

  • andy

    In honor of Mom and Law & Order – name one Xiang Xiang!!!

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