the new panda cub at the national zoo got checked out by zoo staff and veterinarians for the first time today. News4's Derrick Ward reports
A very protective Mei Xiang kept the panda team at the National Zoo from getting a second look at her new cub.
Mei Xiang gave birth to the cub Friday afternoon after approximately two hours of labor. The zoo said a second cub birthed by the giant panda the next day was stillborn. Officials said the second cub was malformed in utero and never alive.
Zoo personnel were able to examine the first cub hands-on for the first time Sunday, but they weren't so lucky when they tried to perform a second exam Tuesday.
The panda team says Mei Xiang was more alert and aware of their presence and positioned her body so that the cub couldn't be reached. Despite attempts to distract her, Mei Xiang constantly moved out of reach, keeping her cub close.
The keepers stopped their attempt as to not upset her.
While they won’t know the sex of the cub for another couple of weeks, they were able to take vital sign readings Sunday. The cub weighed 137 grams or 4.8 ounces, had good heart and lung sounds, and good signs for intestinal function.
Mei Xiang was artificially inseminated twice March 30 after failing to breed naturally with the zoo's male panda Tian Tian. It's not clear who the proud father is: Mei Xiang was inseminated with previously frozen semen from both Tian Tian and Gao Gao, a panda at the San Diego Zoo.
Mei Xiang has given birth to two cubs in the past. A female cub, born last September, lived only six days. Her birth was a surprise; she had not shown up on any ultrasounds. An autopsy determined she may have been born prematurely. Mei Xiang's only surviving cub, Tai Shan, was born in 2005 and now lives in China.
According to an agreement with the Chinese government, the cub will stay at the National Zoo for four years and will then be sent to China.
Tuesday also marks Tian Tian's 16th birthday. The zoo will celebrate with a fruitsicle cake made of sweet potatoes, carrots, pears, apples and juice.
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