This New Baby Panda is Kind of a Big Deal

Here's you Thursday awwwww. The Smithsonian’s National Zoo says its new 2-week-old giant panda cub is a girl, and she's and is in good health.

At a press event Thursday, the zoo revealed the baby panda, born on August 23rd to mother Mei Xiang. In following with Chinese tradition, the cub will not be named until it is 100 days old.

WAMU added: "Ever since the tiny panda was born on August 23, Mei Xiang has been carefully tending to it."

Identifying the gender of a baby panda is no small task. Panda reproductive organs often don’t become identifiable for several months after birth. Even then, all that fuzz often gets in the way! To be sure, scientists used DNA analysis.

Pandas are notoriously difficult to breed in captivity, and only a handful have been born in the U.S. in the last several decades. In order to increase the chances of a successful fertilization, zookeepers used the sperm of multiple males. According to WAMU:

Officials at zoo also announced that a DNA swab of the baby panda had determined that its father is Tian Tian, the National Zoo's resident male panda. Mei Xiang was artificially inseminated in March with sperm from both Tian Tian and Gao Gao, a panda [from the San Diego Zoo]. This is Tian Tian's third cub: he sired Tai Shan, born in 2005, and a panda cub that died last year a week after its birth.

The zoo's panda house will remain closed while the baby panda continues to grow. But don't worry: the zoo offers round-the-clock coverage of all things panda with its popular panda cam.

"The cub 'has a fat little belly,' is very vocal and very beautiful," according to Senior Curator Brandie Smith.

Pandas are considered an endangered species, with only a few hundred in captivity. In the wild, estimates range from about 1,600 pandas at the low end, to higher claims of more like 3,000 pandas in the wild. Efforts to perfect panda breeding continue because frankly, a world without pandas would be unbearable.

(Image: National Zoo/UPI/Landov)