TODAY

TODAY   |  August 26, 2013

Smithsonian panda delivers twins, one stillborn

The Smithsonian National Zoo got good news and bad news Sunday; their giant panda Mei Xiang delivered one healthy panda cub, but its twin was stillborn. NBC’s Kristen Welker reports.

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>>> new details on the giant panda cub that was just born at the smithsonian's national zoo in washington. it was followed by the surprise birth of a second stillborn cub. kristen welker is at the national zoo . good morning.

>> good morning to you. well, despite the mixed news, they are focussing on the new life they have here at the national zoo . i'm standing in front of one of two pandas that could be the father to that new cub. and while the baby is too young for them to know the sex, they know they have something special here.

>> reporter: it was the news and the sound that everyone was hoping for. the national zoo 's female giant panda gave birth to a cub late friday afternoon, witnessed by many on the zoo's hd panda cam.

>> today is a great day for the national zoo .

>> reporter: she immediately picked up her cub and started grooming it and zoo keepers did their own exam but first had to pry it away from mom.

>> i was able to feel the head of my cub and slip my hand on top and pull it right out. the cub was active and squealing and seemed healthy.

>> reporter: but the news wasn't all good. she delivered a second cub saturday night that didn't make it.

>> the stillborn cub was never alive.

>> reporter: but the zoo is focussing on their success story. female giant pandas only go into heat once a year.

>> we have a 48 hour window and if you miss that window it's an entire year before she can breed again.

>> reporter: so the breeding process is difficult and in this case, artificial insemination may have been key with donations from two male pandas. one at the national zoo with her and another from the san diego zoo .

>> with the hormones, we know exactly when she is going to ovulate. when she is going to lay an egg.

>> reporter: but ultrasounds are inconclusive. they didn't know if she was pregnant until the baby arrived. at 4.8 ounces this cub is the new bundle of joy.

>> and there's similar excitement building in scotland where they believe one of their giant pandas is expecting. a big deal because giant pandas are an endangered species , carl.

>> you know how pandas are cute, newborn pandas, not so cute.

>> but we await their cuteness at any time.

>> panda behind the shot there i actually thought was fake.

>> it's real.

>> it looked like she has this fake scene behind her but he is moving his mouth. must be real.

>> it is real.

>> you said he might be the father. just ask him.