The giant panda team at the San Diego Zoo got their first close look at the new cub last night. At approximately 9 p.m. on July 30, video taken from the den shows panda mother Bai Yun leaving the cub in the den for the first time as she goes to get a drink of water. While female pandas generally fast for several days after the birth of a cub, it is not unusual for them to need water a day or two postpartum.
The giant panda team, composed of zookeepers, veterinarians, nutritionists, scientists and others, is pleased to see that Bai Yun is looking after her own needs, as it is critical to her success in rearing this cub past the first few crucial days of life.
Staff monitoring the pandacam was able to zoom in on the hairless cub for a closer look before Bai Yun returned to the den and scooped up and cradled her newborn.
“What we saw was very encouraging,” said Suzanne Hall, senior research technician for the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research. “The cub was extremely vocal, registering its complaint over its mother’s absence. To us, that indicates good vigor and a proper behavioral response to the cool air and loss of contact with Mom. The cub was wiggling all over the floor, indicating good strength and energy. And the cub had a nice, round belly, indicating that Bai Yun is providing plenty of milk.”
The mother and the cub will remain off exhibit for four to five months before appearing in a public exhibit. During the denning period, the only way to see the panda cub and mother will be through the San Diego Zoo’s live Panda Cam, available at www.sandiegozoo.org/pandacam.
It will be a couple weeks before the cub develops its iconic black-and-white markings. The sex of the cub will not be known until animal care staff have a chance to examine the cub, which is expected to happen in approximately two months.
Giant pandas are on loan to the San Diego Zoo from the People’s Republic of China to study this endangered species. As part of this long-term program, the San Diego Zoo is collaborating with the Chinese Academy of Science in studies of behavior, ecology, genetics and conservation of wild pandas living in the Foping Nature Reserve.
Only 1,600 giant pandas are believed to exist. The species has been challenged by low reproduction rates, bamboo shortages, habitat destruction, and hunting. The San Diego Zoo, in conjunction with Chinese panda experts, is working to conquer these challenges.
The San Diego Zoo Global Wildlife Conservancy is dedicated to bringing endangered species back from the brink of extinction. The work of the Conservancy includes onsite wildlife conservation efforts (representing both plants and animals) at the San Diego Zoo, San Diego Zoo Safari Park, San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research, and international field programs in more than 35 countries. In addition, San Diego Zoo Global manages the Anne and Kenneth Griffin Reptile Conservation Center, the Frozen ZooTM, Native Seed Gene Bank, the Keauhou and Maui Hawaii Endangered Bird Conservation Centers, the San Clemente Loggerhead Shrike Breeding Facility, the Cocha Cashu Biological Research Station, the Desert Tortoise Conservation Center, and a 800-acre biodiversity reserve adjacent to the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. The important conservation and science work of these entities is supported in part by The Foundation of the Zoological Society of San Diego.