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Under an agreement with the Chinese government, zoo officials can keep the cub for four years before it has to go back to China, just as its older brother Tai Shan did in 2010.

Still, there’s some danger for the cub, especially in the next two weeks. Pandas have accidentally crushed their small cubs. And the zoo’s first panda couple, Ling-Ling and Hsing-Hsing, had five cubs, but none of them survived more than a few days.

Zoo officials said this cub’s cries sound strong, however. They plan to name it Dec. 24.

For now, however, there’s a glow of amazement after “hoping and hoping and hoping for all these years,” said Marty Dearie, another zoo panda keeper. There are only a few hundred pandas in captivity and about 1,600 left in the wild.

“We’re excited and in disbelief all at the same time,” Dearie said.

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Online:

The zoo’s online panda camera: http://nationalzoo.si.edu/Animals/GiantPandas/default.cfm?camLP2