AFP – A giant panda gave birth to a cub Friday at the US National Zoo in Washington, raising hopes for a rare success after a series of false pregnancies, officials said.
“WE HAVE A CUB!!” the zoo announced on Twitter after female giant panda Mei Xiang’s unnamed baby was born at 5:32 pm (2132 GMT).
“Mei Xiang picked the cub up immediately and began cradling and caring for it,” the zoo said later in a statement, adding that the cub could be heard squealing.
Mei Xiang’s water broke two hours earlier at 3:36 pm. The panda had been on round-the-clock watch since August 7 via closed-circuit cameras.
In September, Mei Xiang gave birth to a female cub, but it died six days later from liver damage due to underdeveloped lungs. She had five consecutive false pregnancies from 2007 to 2012.
Her first cub, Tai Shan, was born in July 2005 as a result of artificial insemination. It now lives at the Bifengxia Panda Base in Ya’an, China.
Mei Xiang was artificially inseminated twice in March after unsuccessful attempts to breed her naturally with the National Zoo’s male giant panda, Tian Tian.
During a first procedure, she was artificially inseminated with fresh semen collected from Tian Tian and frozen samples collected in 2003.
She was also inseminated during a second procedure with Tian Tian’s 2003 frozen samples and frozen semen from the San Diego Zoo’s male giant panda, Gao Gao, collected that same year.
The National Zoo said scientists will perform a paternity analysis in the coming weeks to determine which male panda sired the cub.
[Image courtesy of The PandaCam of the Smithsonian National Zoo in Washington D.C.]