Pets & Animals

Panda cub gets exam after mom finally stops cuddling her

"It's amazing to see how much she has grown in less than one month," said Brandie Smith, senior curator of mammals and giant pandas at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C.

It looks like the giant panda cub at Smithsonian's National Zoo in Washington, D.C., is getting the right kind of love and attention. The newborn got a clean bill of health after her first full veterinary exam on Monday afternoon.

Mama bear Mei Xiang (pronounced “may-SHONG”) has spent much of the past three and a half weeks cradling her cub, so zookeepers had been waiting for the right moment to slip the baby out with care while mom wasn’t looking.

When Mei Xiang left the den to snack on bamboo and drink some water in an adjacent enclosure, zookeepers made their move. They were able to complete a full exam in about 20 minutes.

Born on Aug. 23, the cub has more than doubled in weight since she was first examined on Aug. 25. She now weighs slightly less than 2 pounds.

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"It's amazing to see how much she has grown in less than one month," senior curator of mammals and giant pandas Brandie Smith said on the National Zoo’s website. "Mei Xiang continues to be a great mom, as she was with her first cub, Tai Shan, and it shows."

The giant panda cub born at the Smithsonian's National Zoo on Aug. 23 received her first veterinary exam late Monday afternoon and got a clean bill of health.

Although the baby bear doesn’t have much fur yet, she has the signature black and white markings of a giant panda. She’s bound to grow as large as her mother, who weighs about 233 pounds, according to the zoo’s website.  

The name Mei Xiang means “beautiful fragrance.” The cub doesn’t have a name yet but it’s traditional to name pandas when they are 100 days old.

The cub is 10.6 inches long from nose to tail and 9.8 inches wide around her belly. Her eyes have not opened yet.

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In addition to measuring the cub’s weight and length, the panda team tries to assess hydration, check the oral cavity and other areas, and listen for a heartbeat and lung sounds.

As soon as the exam was completed, Mei Xiang returned to her den and immediately picked up her cub to groom her.

The zoo’s popular panda exhibit has been closed to the public since Aug. 2 and will remain closed for a while to provide quiet for Mei Xiang and her cub. But panda lovers can peek in on them via the National Zoo’s panda cam.

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Visitors can also see panda cub’s dad, Tian Tian (pronounced “t-YEN t-YEN”), in his outdoor habitat on the panda cam