Baby Panda Update: “larger cub” doing well and “little cub’s behaviors are good” but send positive thoughts during this continued “high-risk period”

Photo via Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute

From the National Zoo:

“Mei Xiang has not been a willing participant in the panda team’s efforts to switch the cubs since 2 p.m. yesterday afternoon. She has the larger cub in her possession. The panda team is caring for the smaller cub and will continue efforts to swap the cubs about every four hours. However, because the smaller cub has been away from Mei, the panda team is now managing it more intensely. The little cub’s behaviors are good. The team is concerned about its fluctuating weight since the cub is now more than 48 hours old. The most important thing for the panda team is to help the cub get enough fluids and nutrients. To accomplish this, they are bottle and tube feeding the cub. The cub has shown some signs of regurgitation which can lead to aspiration in such a tiny creature. To be prudent, the veterinarians are administering antibiotics to prevent possible infection. It’s very important to keep the cub hydrated so they are alternating an infant electrolyte solution with formula and administering fluids under the skin. The cub is urinating and defecating well. The veterinarians have not seen any sign of respiratory distress.

Our observations of the larger cub from yesterday indicate it is doing well and we’re confident Mei Xiang is taking very good care of it. We remain in a high-risk period.

We’ve received a lot of questions about the tiny size of the panda cubs. Bear cubs have the smallest infant-to-mother size ratio of any placental mammal at approx. 1 to 700. Mei Xiang currently weighs about 238 pounds. One of the cubs weighed 86 grams at birth, a 1 to 1,256 ratio of cub to mom. The larger cub weighed 138 grams at birth, a 1 to 783 ratio of cub to mom.”

10 Comment

  • Interesting on the infant-to-mother size ratio (1 to 700!!) — that came up in yesterday’s discussion as one potential reason why Mei Xiang’s labor seemed pretty painless compared to a human having a baby.

  • Also interesting (and worrisome, at least to me) is that one cub was 1.6 times the birthweight of the other. I hope both cubs are going to be OK!

  • Thank you for the update! I feel like this should be a daily feature until they are both out of the woods.

  • Anyone else find the tone of the Zoo’s update to be ridiculous? Of course Mei Xiang isn’t a willing participant in having her cubs removed from her – she’s an animal. They make it sound like she’s kidnapped one of the cubs.

    • I think I read somewhere that in a typical panda-twin situation the mother favors one at the expense of the other (who usually dies). by rotating the babies in and out it makes the mother more likely to bond with both and increases the odds of survival for both. but hopefully both of them will make it!

      • Yes, but how is the mama panda supposed to know this? She likely favors one by instinct, because she knows that she will more likely to have one survive, because she knows her resources to feed and nurture are limited, and thus best focused on one. She likely can’t know that the zoo staff is also feeding the other when not with her, and that their strategy thus might work to have both survive.

  • I Dont Get It

    Come on little butterstick, we are all rooting for you!

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