News & Politics

The National Zoo Has a New Giant Panda Cub

Mei Xiang delivered her cub at 6:35 PM today

Mama panda Mei Xiang. Photograph courtesy Smithsonian's National Zoo.

Lo, unto us a panda is born! Amidst the darkness and suffering of 2020, the powers that be have smiled upon us and given us a healthy panda cub at the National Zoo!

Giant panda Mei Xiang successfully delivered her cub today at 6:35 PM. A Zoo spokesperson said that though the cub is very small, it’s been vocalizing and Mei Xiang has been caring for it — both great signs that the cub is healthy. Keepers will perform a neonatal exam when they’re able to retrieve the cub in a few days. The sex of the cub will be determined at a later date.

Zoo staff are monitoring her and the baby via the Zoo’s panda cams. Yes, the same panda cams that are accessible to the public. You can check in on Mei Xiang and her baby here, but a Zoo spokesperson warned the site has been crashing due to the overwhelming amount of people trying to check in on the newest arrival.

This cub is a huge deal for the Zoo, as it’s really hard for pandas to get pregnant. Their fertile windows are just 24 to 72 hours each year, and even if conception does occur, its not uncommon for the mother to miscarry or resorb the fetus. On top of that, at 22-years-old, Mei Xiang is the oldest panda in the United States and the second oldest documented in the world to give birth.

“Giant pandas are an international symbol of endangered wildlife and hope, and with the birth of this precious cub we are thrilled to offer the world a much-needed moment of pure joy,” said Zoo Director Steve Monfort in a press release. “Because Mei Xiang is of advanced maternal age, we knew the chances of her having a cub were slim. However, we wanted to give her one more opportunity to contribute to her species’ survival. I am incredibly proud of our animal care and science teams, whose expertise in giant panda behavior was critical to this conservation success.”

Mei Xiang is no stranger to creating furry bundles of joy. She’s also the mom of Tai Shan, Bao Bao, and Bei Bei, all of whom were moved to China at age four per the Zoo’s agreement with the China Wildlife Conservation Association.

Jane Recker
Assistant Editor

Jane is a Chicago transplant who now calls Cleveland Park her home. Before joining Washingtonian, she wrote for Smithsonian Magazine and the Chicago Sun-Times. She is a graduate of Northwestern University, where she studied journalism and opera.