Baby panda born at National Zoo in Washington

Giant panda gives birth to cub on Saturday at Washington’s National Zoo

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

The National Zoo's giant panda Mei Xiang gives birth to cub

The National Zoo's giant panda Mei Xiang, a star tourist draw in the U.S. capital, gave birth to a cub on Saturday, the zoo said.

Mei Xiang gave birth at 5:34 p.m. (21:34 GMT) after her water broke about an hour beforehand, zoo officials said.

Zoo officials are being very cautious and "keeping their fingers crossed" after the zoo lost a six-day-old cub in 2012.

Chief veterinarian Don Neiffer said the cub has been showing signs of being healthy, including vocalizing.

Zoo officials said Mei Xiang picked up the cub soon after giving birth and is being "a great mother".

Neiffer said zoo staff will leave the mother and her cub alone for as long as possible unless there are signs of a problem.

Mei Xiang previously has given birth to two surviving cubs: Tai Shan in 2005 and Bao Bao in 2013.

Mei Xiang was artificially inseminated on April 26 and 27 with frozen sperm from Hui Hui, apanda in China, and fresh sperm from the National Zoo's Tian Tian, it said.

Officials said the gender of the cub or which of the sperm donors is the father will be determined later. He added that no decision had been made about naming the cub.

Giant pandas, one of the world's most endangered species, have a very low reproductive rate, particularly in captivity. Their natural home is in a few mountain ranges in central China. There are about 1,600 giant pandas known to be living in the wild and some 300 in captivity, mostly in China.