National Zoo's Giant Panda Cub Is Growing Up Feisty And Adorable

Pandas are too cute to be real. Sometimes I convince myself that they are some grand prank China is playing on the world and every panda is just a dude in a costume.

And then a zoo somewhere announces the birth of a new panda cub and I'm reminded that yes, giant pandas are real animals, because the world is a very weird place.

On August 14, 2020, staff at the Smithsonian's National Zoo discovered that Mei Xiang, one of their giant pandas was pregnant.

Since it can be very difficult to tell if a panda is pregnant, it took an ultrasound to confirm that fetal tissue was developing.

Mei Xiang had been artificially inseminated back in March as part of continued conservation efforts for the species.

On August 21, she gave birth to a single healthy cub, but it wasn't until September 14 that staff was able to get a good look at the baby.

Mei Xiang was a doting mom and the staff left the parenting to her in those first critical weeks. They waited until Mom was confidently leaving the baby inside while she left for food, performing a first exam in the few minutes Mei Xiang was gone.

It's almost impossible to learn the sex of a panda cub without genetic testing, so it wasn't until October 5 that they were able to announce that it's a boy!

Staff are now able to perform weekly exams, entering the den only when Mei Xiang is in the outside enclosure.

Now that the little guy's eyes and ears have opened up, they have one word to describe him: feisty.

In his latest exams, he's been wiggly and vocal, making "barking" noises in response to the staff's conversations around him.

He's growing like a weed, too. At seven weeks, he was over five pounds and his woolly fur had come in almost entirely.

Mom has also begun to take him on "field trips" out into the enclosure, letting him explore for short periods under her watchful eye.

As of right now, the baby boy doesn't have a name.

Staff expect that his crawling skills will continue to improve with his first real steps occurring when he's about three months old.

If you'd like to keep up with his journey — and who wouldn't? — you can follow the National Zoo on Twitter, or check out their panda news page here.

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