The National Zoo’s giant female panda Mei Xiang gave birth to a cub on Friday. (The Washington Post)

Keepers at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo attempted to examine the newborn giant panda cub Tuesday morning, but had to abandon their efforts after protective mama Mei Xiang intervened.

“Mei Xiang was more alert and more aware of the keepers’ presence today,” positioning her body so that keepers couldn’t reach the cub, zoo officials said in a statement after the failed neonatal exam.

“When they attempted to distract her and retrieve the cub, she persistently moved out of reach. It’s clear she was holding tight to the cub and did not want to give it up.”

The team stopped its attempt to avoid upsetting Mei Xiang.

The cub was initially examined on Sunday, two days after its long-awaited birth. Keepers distracted Mei Xiang with honey water and pieces of food, panda keeper Marty Dearie said. Zoo vets were then able to determine that the cub was healthy, noting that it was feeding and defecating normally.

“All signs are that we have a very healthy, active, vibrant cub,” the zoo said Sunday. This was welcome news after Mei Xiang gave birth to a second, stillborn cub over the weekend.

While they were unable to distract Mei Xiang as easily on Tuesday, officials said the panda keepers are continuing to monitor both mom and baby using the zoo’s Giant Panda Cam.

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