Pandas are notorious for not getting it on — or at least, not successfully mating. While breeding pandas in captivity is more successful now than it was in the mid-20th century, according to National Geographic, a birth of a healthy cub is always cause for celebration.
On Friday night, 22-year-old panda Mei Xiang gave birth at the National Zoo in Washington, DC. She immediately began nursing and cuddling her newborn, staff told Reuters. The chances of a successful pregnancy and birth were low due to Mei Xiang’s age, especially because she’s had several failed pregnancy attempts.
While Mei Xiang and the father of the new cub, Tian Tian, have already parented three other cubs, the zoo wanted to try again before she was too old to reproduce. Zoo director Steve Monfort told Reuters in a written statement that they knew the chances were slim. “However,” he said, “we wanted to give her one more opportunity to contribute to her species’ survival.”
While pandas are no longer considered endangered by the World Wildlife Fund, they are still a vulnerable species — so any new healthy birth is a win. “We are thrilled to offer the world a much-needed moment of pure joy,” Monfort said.
The National Zoo celebrated the birth on Twitter with photos and updates:
As of this writing there’s no news on the sex or name of the new cub, but the National Zoo is updating fans on their social accounts. Merely hours old, Mei Xiang’s cub is about the size of a stick of butter according to the WWF.
Some people expressed concern that Mei Xiang and her baby were in such a seemingly small space:
That space looks so small and uncomfortable — can you give context for this? Does it open up to a better space but she’s choosing to be in this one? Why so cramped with the mostly bare floor?
— Caitlin S., Masked PhD😷 (@Paleophile) August 22, 2020
While the room does look small, you can rest easy: Wild pandas give birth in small dens, and even stay in the den for the cub’s first 100 days of life.
Others, however, were joyful — and anxious! — about the new arrival, going so far as making cakes to celebrate:
A SURPRISE 🖤🤍30th pandemic 😷giveaway to celebrate the joy and birth the baby 🐼 panda has brought to the DC area and beyond!!! More caKes!!! Four winners!! Like the picture and be a fan on FB, IG, Twitter! 😘😘 Winners to be announced on Sunday!! pic.twitter.com/VOxvpXjuH7
— cakedivasnet (@cakedivasnet) August 22, 2020
Fans of Mei Xiang and her baby can keep up with developments on the ever-popular panda cam. Mazel tov!