Mei Xiang’s surviving panda cub is an active, healthy male and “overall looks great,” National Zoo said Thursday, a day after her smaller twin cub, also a male, had died.
Adult male panda Tian Tian is the father.
The panda team noticed that the large cub had “a plump tail,” was vocalizing and growing more hair — all signs of good health.
“The zoo’s male panda Tian Tian is the father of Mei Xiang’s previous cubs. During this year’s panda breeding, Mei Xiang was artificially inseminated with semen from Tian Tian and another panda in China that was deemed a good genetic match,” AP reported.
If tradition continues, the surviving cub will be named 100 days after its birth.
The zoo shared a photo of Mei Xiang cuddling with her cub on Facebook Thursday.
“Overnight it was evident to panda keepers and veterinarians that our healthy panda cub was active and nursing appropriately throughout the night. Mei is showing proper maternal care, which includes short sleep cycles, adjusting the tiny cub in her arms for better positioning and grooming. The panda team heard strong vocalizations from the cub and observed it a couple times during the night. The cub is growing more hair, its tail looks plump and the cub overall looks great,” the panda team posted.
On Wednesday, the zoo’s chief veterinarian, Dr. Don Neiffer, while still wearing his scrubs, took to the podium at a news conference to explain that the smaller panda twin had died.
Mei Xiang had birthed the twins on Saturday but was having trouble nursing and caring for both. The zoo adopted a protocol used by the Chinese to swap the twins, allowing Mei to care for one while the other was monitor by the zoo keepers, he said.
On Monday, Mei Xiang stopped participating in the swap and wouldn’t relinquish the larger cub.
The panda team took care of the smaller cub and were still hopeful yet cautious during the “high-risk period,” despite the challenges.
“The cub has shown some signs of regurgitation which can lead to aspiration in such a tiny creature. To be prudent, the veterinarians are administering antibiotics to prevent possible infection,” the zoo posted on Tuesday.
When they were able to make the swap, Mei Xiang had the smaller cub while the team inspected the larger cub, Dr. Neiffer said.
On Wednesday, the zoo keepers swapped out the cubs again and noticed that the smaller cub hadn’t gained weight and was having respiratory problems. The cub died shortly after, he said.
The National Zoo said it would conduct a necropsy on the smaller cub to determine the cause of death.