Mei Xiang - the Giant Panda at the National Zoo in Washington D.C. - has given birth to her third cub. After the panda's five false pregnancies and the death of her second cub in September 2012, zoo officials were ecstatic.
WE HAVE A CUB!! Born at 5:32 p.m. this evening. More details to follow. http://t.co/R88TEAQKzv #cubwatch— National Zoo (@NationalZoo) August 23, 2013
In the wild, pandas are notorious for having a short breeding season, and generally considered to be solitary animals. Attempts to breed them in zoos have had little success.
After several attempts at breeding Mei Xiang with the zoo's male panda, Tian Tian, officials decided they would have a better chance with artificial insemination. Earlier this week zoo director Dennis Kelly said, "We’re cautiously optimistic that Mei Xiang will deliver a healthy cub, or two. We’re prepared for twins.” The new cub doesn't have a name yet, and officials haven't come close enough to determine the gender.
The size of a newborn panda can be as small as a stick of butter, but they can reach well over 300 pounds in adulthood. Estimates vary, but the World Wildlife Fund estimates that there are only 1,600 pandas in the wild.