August 2, 2005

Washington’s baby panda is a boy, zoo says

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - It's a boy -- a quick peek at the
baby panda born last month at Washington's National Zoo showed
it is a male, the zoo said on Tuesday.

Curious veterinarians at the Smithsonian National Zoo lured
giant panda Mei Xiang out of her den with a bamboo snack and
sneaked a look at her cub, which was born July 9.

The cub is now 12 inches (30 cm) long and weighs 1.8 pounds
(825.7 grams), the zoo said in a statement.

Veterinarian Sharon Deem was also able to listen to its
heart and breathing and said he sounded healthy.

The popular giant pandas are endangered and notoriously
difficult to breed.

Mei Xiang was artificially inseminated on March 11, and a
careful pregnancy and birth watch ensued. Until now, the new
mother has been left undisturbed with her cub so as not to
interfere with bonding.

Surveillance cameras have been used to monitor her behavior
and to provide glimpses of the helpless baby panda.

Mei Xiang and the cub's father, Tian Tian, are on a 10-year
loan to the zoo from their native China. Under the agreement,
the cub will be sent to China after it is weaned in a year or

Ling-Ling and Hsing-Hsing, the zoo's previous pair of
pandas, which are related to raccoons, produced five cubs
between 1983 and 1989 but all of them died within days.

A second U.S. panda, at the San Diego Zoo, is pregnant with
twins, zoo officials there say.

Bai Yun gave birth in 1999 to a female cub, Hua Mei, the
first surviving giant panda to have been born in the United