News & Politics

The Life of a National Zoo Giant Panda Cub, in Pictures

Poking and prodding, birthday cakes, and possibly a long voyage are in store for the zoo's newest arrival.

Photograph via the National Zoo’s Flickr page.

With its resident female giant panda Mei Xiang giving birth to a pair of cubs last weekend, the National Zoo’s spirits are at peak levels. Though the second cub was stillborn, the first cub, born Friday afternoon about 90 minutes after Mei Xiang went into labor, is in fine health for a three-day-old bear.

There is still much to be learned about the new baby panda, including its gender and its biological father, but for the time being, all seems to be well with the cub. And while the cub currently looks like more of an amorphous blob of pink flesh than it does a cute, duochromatic bear, we can guess what its life might be like through archival photos of the National Zoo’s last surviving panda cub, Tai Shan.

Born in 2005, Tai Shan—or “Butterstick,” as he was affectionately known—lived the first five years of his life at the National Zoo before getting shipped off to a panda research facility in China. Here’s a look back of how it all played out.

Staff Writer

Benjamin Freed joined Washingtonian in August 2013 and covers politics, business, and media. He was previously the editor of DCist and has also written for Washington City Paper, the New York Times, the New Republic, Slate, and BuzzFeed. He lives in Adams Morgan.