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Newborn panda cub 'vibrant' and 'healthy,' says National Zoo

Aug. 25, 2013 at 3:49 PM ET

The giant panda cub born 5:32 p.m. on August 23, 2013 at the Smithsonian's National Zoo is pictured receiving an exam from animal care staff at 8:56 a...
Smithsonian's National Zoo / Reuters
The giant panda cub born 5:32 p.m. on August 23, 2013 at the Smithsonian's National Zoo is pictured gets an exam from animal care staff.

A new baby cub at the Smithsonian Zoo in Washington is bright pink, very tiny and healthy, the zoo announced on Sunday as they released the first photos of the little bundle of joy.

The mama panda, Mei Xiang, gave birth at 5:32 p.m. on Friday, and according to zoo officials, after spending the past two weeks practicing for the moment by “spending extended amounts of time body licking and cradling her toys.”

Mei Xiang picked up her new cub immediately after giving birth and started nurturing it and cuddling with it, said zoo officials.

On Sunday, the zoo reported that their panda team was able to give Mei Xiang’s newborn its first neonatal examination. The team concluded that “the cub is robust, fully formed, and is a bright, healthy shade of pink,” adding that the newborn is “active” and “vibrant.”

Video: After a giant panda gave birth to a female cub on Friday at the National Zoo, “mom and baby are doing very well,” says Dr. Brandie Smith. The zoo still needs to solve the “little mystery” on who the father of the panda cub is, and hopes to gather samples from the baby to determine which panda is the lucky dad.

The baby panda weighed in at less than a third of a pound on Sunday but its “belly was nice and full … and it was obvious that the cub is both nursing and digesting,” the officials said.

Fifteen-year-old Mei Xiang weighs over 200 pounds, according to the zoo.

She was artificially inseminated with frozen semen from two pandas on March 30 after failing to breed naturally with the Smithsonian National Zoo's male panda Tian Tian. The zoo said they will not know who the father is or the sex of the cub for two to three weeks.

Mei Xiang gave birth to a second cub on Friday, but it had abnormalities and “had never been alive,” zoo spokeswoman Pamela Baker-Masson said in a statement.

Mei Xiang groomed the stillborn cub for 17 minutes before letting it down, while still holding onto her firstborn, Baker-Masson said.

Officials said Mei Xiang and the healthy cub will be in isolation for the next few months.

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