Smithsonian National Zoo celebrates birth of panda cub against the odds

It’s been a big month for animal conservation. After celebrating the birth of endangered zebras and an elephant baby boom in Kenya, we are excited to announce that the giant panda Mei Xiang has given birth to a cub at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo.

The cub was born in the evening on August 21, and zookeepers and the public alike watched in awe as the cub was cradled by its mother and let out small cries on the zoo’s panda cams.

“Giant pandas are an international symbol of endangered wildlife and hope, and with the birth of this precious cub we are thrilled to offer the world a much-needed moment of pure joy,” said the zoo director. This particular birth was especially rare. Pandas only ovulate for 24 to 72 hours each year and Mei Xiang is older and past her reproductive prime.

Despite these challenging odds, scientists from the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI) and Zoo veterinarians worked together to perform artificial insemination in March and confirmed the pregnancy earlier in August. This is the first time a Zoo in the United States has experienced a successful pregnancy and birth via artificial insemination using only frozen semen.

This is Mei Xiang’s fourth cub. The zoo has a cooperative breeding agreement with the China Wildlife Conservation Association, and all cubs born in the zoo are moved to China at four years old.

This birth is exciting news for baby panda lovers, but it is also an accomplishment in the field of conservation biology. Refining our ability to successfully breed endangered species in captivity helps ensure the continued survival of the species and teaches us valuable insights about the species’ behavior to better protect them in the wild.

If you need some more cute baby panda content in your life, go check out the panda cams and see the cub’s early days first hand.

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