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National Zoo vets conduct first exam of panda cub

This morning, the National Zoo’s panda team succeeded in conducting its first neonatal exam of the cub Mei Xiang gave birth to on Friday at 5:32 p.m.

“The cub is robust, fully formed, and is a bright, healthy shade of pink. It weighs 137 grams, which is about 4.8 ounces. Its heart rate is steady, and vets were able to hear breathing sounds from both lungs. It’s belly was nice and full, its mouth was normal, and it was obvious that the cub is both nursing and digesting. All signs are that we have a very healthy, active, vibrant cub,” Zoo officials announced. “We won’t know the cub’s sex or its paternity for two or three weeks.”

The National Zoological Park in Washington is part of the Smithsonian. The zoo’s Panda House is closed as Mei Xiang tends to her newborn, but zoo officials provide periodic updates.

Mei Xiang gave birth to a second cub Saturday evening but the news there was sad.

Here is the report from late Saturday: At 7:29 p.m. [Saturday], Mei Xiang gave birth to a second, stillborn cub. Keepers watching Mei on the panda cam saw her groom it for 17 minutes. When she stopped grooming, it fell from Mei’s body onto the floor of the den. It lay motionless and made no sound. Throughout, staff could see it visually and hear the first cub squealing, and Mei never set it down. Staff retrieved the motionless cub with a grabbing device. It was immediately evident that the cub had developmental abnormalities and wasn’t fully formed. It was never alive.

For people who are mesmerized by science, the National Zoo has posted its video of Friday’s birth of the healthy cub. This little one literally burst onto the scene.