Giant panda Mei Xiang and her newborn cub, barely a week old, were caught on panda cam at the National Zoo early Thursday, Aug. 29, 2013.
Credit: Smithsonian's National Zoo
Even giant panda moms have to deal with crying infants in the middle of the night.
Panda cam video from the Smithsonian's National Zoo showed the female bear Mei Xiang putting her newborn at ease in the wee hours of Thursday (Aug. 29).
In the footage, taken shortly after 3:30 a.m. ET, Mei Xiang can be seen gently placing her cub on the floor of the den. The little bear then starts to make a big fuss. [In Photos: Giant Panda Mei Xiang Gives Birth]
"The tiny cub has a round belly, which indicates that it is nursing well," the zoo said in a statement. "The cub also has a great set of lungs! There is a lot of squawking until Mei carefully picks her cub up and cradles it."
Mom and cub appear to be healthy, but keepers are maintaining a close watch over the pair. The panda cub was born on Aug. 23 and Mei Xiang delivered its stillborn twin a day later. Zoo staff was able to give the newborn its first exam on Aug. 25, finding that it seemed to be breathing, nursing and digesting normally. It weighed about 4.8 ounces (137 grams).
In a few weeks, keepers will be able to determine the cub's sex and a paternity test will reveal who its father is. (The cub was conceived through artificial insemination, and Mei Xiang received sperm from two different males.)
Giant panda babies are some of the smallest newborns relative to their mothers among mammals, typically measuring about one-thousandth of their mother's weight. In a few months, the pinkish cub will be more recognizable as a plump black-and-white bear. At 100 days old, the baby will be named in keeping with Chinese tradition.
All pandas in the United States are on loan from China, where conservationists estimate that there are just 1,600 pandas left in the wild. Captive breeding is one way to bolster the species' population numbers and genetic diversity, but it is notoriously tricky.
Fifteen-year-old Mei Xiang has only been able to conceive through artificial insemination. The panda mom gave birth to her first cub, named Tai Shan, in 2005. Tai Shan now lives at the Bifengxia Panda Base in Ya'an, China. Mei Xiang's second cub, born last September, only survived a few days after birth.