This, friends, is the National Zoo's 6-day-old baby panda cub hollering, looking full-bellied, and giving hope to everyone rooting for the fragile little creature and its 233-pound mother.
This video, taken at 3:37 a.m., shows mom Mei Xiang gently placing the cub on her den floor. Keepers spotted the cub's round belly, which, the zoo said in a press release, "indicates to the panda team that it is nursing well. Also, the cub has a great set of lungs. There is a lot of squawking until Mei carefully picks the cub up again and cradles it."
The zoo also said that Mei drank 56 oz. on Thursday, "which is a good sign that she's doing well," and that keepers and vets are monitoring mom and baby.
— National Zoo (@NationalZoo) August 29, 2013
The big noises that baby is making using its great lungs sound especially sweet, since the cub Mei Xiang gave birth to in 2012 died after six days.
While we keep our fingers crossed for this little cub, read more about D.C.'s two pandas' reproductive difficulty in The New Yorker. Here's a taste:
David Wildt, the head of the Center for Species Survival at the National Zoo, in Washington, D.C., told me, “Some pandas know how to have sex, and some don’t.” The pair at the National Zoo—Tian Tian (male) and Mei Xiang (female)—don’t. They have been together at the zoo since 2000, but until last week they had produced just two cubs, both by artificial insemination, and one of these had died. At the end of last week, Mei Xiang gave birth for a third time, live on one of the zoo’s panda Webcams.
The latest arrival is also the product of artificial insemination. As Wildt described it to me, Tian Tian and Mei Xiang are simply “reproductively incompetent.” A key difficulty is that Mei Xiang places herself in what he called “pancake position”—flat on her stomach, legs outstretched—and Tian Tian isn’t assertive enough to lift her off the ground. Rather than mounting from behind or pulling her toward his lap, he steps onto her back and stands there like a man who has just opened a large box from Ikea and has no idea what to do next.
Unassertive Tian Tian -- one of two pandas who may be the father of Mei Xiang's new cub; her artificial insemination with two pandas' sperm was live tweeted this past spring -- celebrated his 16th birthday this week.
Tian Tian may not be the most successful breeder, and he may help inspire bizarrely vehement anti-panda tirades like the one published earlier this week in Bloomberg, but he was still given a special present:
For Tian Tian's 16 birthday, he got a fruitsicle cake shaped like a car! pic.twitter.com/5eR0H6xlP4
— National Zoo (@NationalZoo) August 27, 2013
Keep squawking, little panda baby, and enjoy your frozen car, birthday boy!
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