National Zoo's giant panda gives birth to 'precious' cub

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Get ready for some fluffy cuteness.

Mei Xiang, a giant panda at the Smithsonian National Zoo in Washington, D.C., gave birth Friday evening.

The zoo announced the cub’s birth on Twitter, writing that the panda gave birth at 6:35 p.m. and the new mother was “caring for her newborn attentively.” The panda’s sex wasn’t immediately determined.

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The mother was viewable on a livestream curled up with her hairless, blind cub. That appeared to be a good sign.

“Positive mothering behaviors include nursing her cub and cuddling it close,” the zoo wrote.

The zoo was closed to visitors for months due to the coronavirus pandemic and is now admitting a limited number of visitors, but panda fans have been able to keep an eye on Mei Xiang and the zoo’s other giant panda, Tian Tian, via its online panda cam.

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Earlier Friday, the zoo announced that the 22-year-old panda appeared to be in labor. She was restless and began body licking, which are signs of labor in pandas.

This is the fourth time Mei Xiang has successfully given birth to a cub. Her three prior cubs, Tai Shan, Bao Bao and Bei Bei were sent to China at age 4 per an agreement with the Chinese government, Fox News previously reported. The most recent, Bei Bei, left the zoo last November.

Mei Ziang sleeps in the zoo’s panda habitat. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
(AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

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Giant pandas are considered “vulnerable” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources. The World Wildlife Fund estimates there are only 1,800 pandas remaining in the wild.

Pandas have been notoriously difficult for zoos to breed in captivity. Mei Xiang was impregnated with artificial insemination.

The zoo said it was “overjoyed” by the cub’s birth, calling it “precious.”

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