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It's A Girl! National Zoo's Panda Cub's Gender Revealed

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Tian Tian has been announced as the father of the female panda cub.
Armando Trull
Tian Tian has been announced as the father of the female panda cub.

Big news from the National Zoo this morning: the baby panda born to Mei Xiang close to two weeks ago is a girl!

Officials at zoo also announced that a DNA swab of the baby panda had determined that its father is Tian Tian, the National Zoo's resident male panda. Mei Xiang was artificially inseminated in March with sperm from both Tian Tian and Gao Gao, a panda from the San Diego Zoo. This is Tian Tian's third cub: he sired Tai Shan, born in 2005, and a panda cub that died last year a week after its birth.

Ever since the tiny panda was born on August 23, Mei Xiang has been carefully tending to it. On August 25, zoo keepers were able to perform the first neonatal exam on the cub, reporting that it weight 4.8 ounces. Since then, it has remained active, making loud noises and slowly developing the panda's tell-tale black markings on eyes and ears.

Zoo officials said today that the cub is now "very active, very vocal" and has developed a "fat little belly." They also said that passing the 10-day mark was critical, and that scientists are more optimistic about the cub's chances of survival.

This is the fourth cub born to Mei Xiang since 2005, though only two have so far survived. A cub born last year died after a week due to lung and liver damage, while a stillborn cub was delivered shortly after the first cub two weeks ago. Mei Xiang has also suffered five failed pregnancies.

Jesus Maldonado, a geneticist with the zoo, said that the science that led to the cub's birth will help with efforts to maintain and increase the dwindling number of pandas in the world.

"The work that we do in the genetic lab helps with conservation management and the diversity of endangered mammals. The genetic work that we did with these pandas will help captive management of the population and will inform reproductive biologists as to how they can manage populations and how they can pair them up," he said.

The zoo's Panda House will remain closed for the coming months. The panda cub will remain unnamed until it turns 100 days old, per Chinese tradition. According to zoo officials, the cub will be allowed to ween naturally, meaning that both will remain at the National Zoo for the next two years.

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