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National Zoo’s panda cub is a boy

The 6-week-old cub, who is still unnamed, has started to open his eyes.

The giant panda born at the National Zoo is a male, zoo officials announced Oct. 5, 2020. The cub, pictured at 1 month old, is the fourth cub of mom Mei Xiang and dad Tian Tian. (Roshan Patel/Smithsonian's National Zoo)

The National Zoo has confirmed that their 6-week-old panda cub is a boy.

The gender reveal was made in a video released by the zoo, where panda-keepers unveiled a canvas smeared with blue markings that was “painted” by the baby’s father, Tian Tian (pronounced t-YEN t-YEN).

The still-unnamed panda cub, born August 21, received a genetic test that confirmed the gender. Photos and videos released by the zoo show the cub, which was born pink, blind and nearly hairless, starting to take on the familiar black-and-white coloring. Zookeepers say he recently began to open both eyes.

The cub’s mom, Mei Xiang (may SHONG), is 22 years old, making her the oldest giant panda to successfully give birth in the United States. The oldest in the world gave birth in China at age 23.

The birth was hailed as a desperately needed bit of happy news amid a global coronavirus pandemic that forced the zoo to shut down for months. Response to the news that Mei Xiang was pregnant caused traffic on the zoo’s ever-popular Panda Cam to spike by 1,200 percent, zoo officials said. When the baby was actually born, traffic went so high that viewers were getting bumped off the live stream, forcing zoo officials to boost the bandwidth on the camera feed.

“Something like this is kind of a miracle for us,” National Zoo Director Steve Monfort said at the time. “It lifts the spirits of my team and the whole world.”

For now, the Panda Cam is still the only way for panda-maniacs to get their fix. The zoo reopened on a limited basis July 24 with visitors needing timed passes to keep the crowds down. But the indoor panda house remains closed and the Asia Trail, where Tian Tian can still be viewed, is temporarily closed to visitors for a scheduled repaving of walkways.

Mei Xiang has three surviving offspring, Tai Shan and Bei Bei, both male, and female Bao Bao. Each was flown to China at age 4 to be part of a breeding program.

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