Zoo veterinarians measure and care for the giant panda cub (National Zoological Park)
The world held its breath, then rejoiced when the National Zoo’s giant panda, Mei Xiang, 22, gave birth to a healthy cub in August: At her age, the odds were not in her favor. The event was especially joyful for panda fans left empty-handed as each of Mei Xiang’s other offspring, Tai Shan, Bao Bao, and Bei Bei, were sent at age 4 to China in accordance with the Zoo’s cooperative breeding agreement with the China Wildlife Conservation Association.
The birth of the male cub, recently named Xiao Qi Ji ("little miracle"), also marked several important scientific breakthroughs. Reproductive scientists from the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI) and Zoo veterinarians performed an artificial insemination on Mei Xiang with frozen semen collected from Tian Tian. She is the oldest giant panda in the United States to give birth. She is also the country’s first giant panda to have a successful pregnancy after the use of frozen semen.
SCBI staff scientist Pierre Comizzoli, who oversaw the artificial insemination process, and Laurie Thompson, assistant curator for giant pandas at the Zoo, discuss the panda’s birth and provide an update on his growth and development.
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