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Jealous Bear Horns in on Pope’s News Cycle

Photograph courtesy National Zoo.

Moments before Pope Francis‘s flight from Cuba landed at Joint Base Andrews, the National Zoo attempted to interrupt the news cycle with a totally quotidian update on the giant panda cub born there last month.

Zoo staff apparently had a fleeting opportunity Monday to inspect the male cub when its mother, Mei Xiang, wandered off to eat. The cub, the zoo reports in a press release, remains healthy and growing, and currently weighs 2.95 pounds, heavier than both its surviving siblings did at four-and-a-half-weeks. At that age, Bao Bao weighed two pounds, while Butterstick (d/b/a Tai Shan) weighed 2.6 pounds.

The panda cub is still blind, but veterinarians say it is now able to hear, judging from its reaction to the sound of a door to the panda habitat moving last weekend. The cub’s eyes are expected to open in two to four weeks, when people in Washington will be more receptive to hearing the latest about some tiny bear. Right now, it’s all about the pope. Wait your turn, panda!

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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.