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Giant panda cub born at National Zoo in Washington, D.C.

Aug. 24, 2013 at 1:03 AM   |   Comments

WASHINGTON, Aug. 24 (UPI) -- Giant panda Mei Xiang gave birth to a cub at the Smithsonian's National Zoo in Washington, D.C., Friday afternoon, the zoo said on its website.

"The panda team heard the cub vocalize and glimpsed the cub for the first time briefly immediately after the birth," the zoo said in its statement. "Mei Xiang picked the cub up immediately and began cradling and caring for it."

The zoo said behavior watchers had been monitoring Mei Xiang around the clock since Aug. 7 via video cameras, and the zoo's birthing team got ready once the mother panda's water broke about 3:36 p.m. EDT and she began having contractions. The cub was born at 5:32 p.m.

"I'm glued to the new panda cams and thrilled to hear the squeals, which appear healthy, of our newborn cub," Dennis Kelly, director of the Smithsonian's National Zoo, said. "Our expansive panda team has worked tirelessly analyzing hormones and behavior since March, and as a result of their expertise and our collaboration with scientists from around the world we are celebrating this birth."

The cub will get its first health exam within two days.

Mei Xiang was artificially inseminated twice March 30 after natural breeding attempts with the zoo's male giant panda, Tian Tian, failed to result in pregnancy. One of the procedures involved a combination of fresh semen collected from Tian Tian and frozen semen collected from him in 2003. The second procedure used frozen semen collected from Tian Tian in 2003 and frozen semen taken from the San Diego Zoo's male giant panda, Gao Gao, in 2003.

A paternity test will determine the father.

Both of Mei Xiang's previous cubs were the result of artificial insemination.

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