The Washington Post

Panda cub tries to stand on its own, under mom’s close watch

Mei Xiang gently places her cub on the floor of her den. The panda cub has a round belly, which indicates that it is nursing well. (Smithsonian National Zoo)

At just six days old, the National Zoo’s new panda cub isn’t quite ready to stand on its own away from mom.

According to zoo officials, the cub’s mother, giant panda Mei Xiang, tried putting her baby down at 3:37 a.m. on Thursday morning. For about 30 seconds, the small cub -– palm-sized at 4.8 ounces when it was examined over the weekend –- rocked back and forth on four tiny paws squawking loudly until Mei Xiang picked it up again.

“It’s a completely normal behavior for her to set her cub down and take a few steps away,” Jen Zoon, a National Zoo spokesperson, said of the panda mom. “She’s basically seeing how it does when she’s not touching it or holding it,” said.

As the cub grows, Zoon said, it will stand on its own for longer and longer periods before it squawks again for Mei Xiang to pick it up.

For now, Mei Xiang spends almost all her time cradling her infant close, Zoon said, and she wakes up about every 30 minutes to nurse the baby. In video footage of the cub’s brief moments trying to stand on its own, zookeepers noted the baby’s rounded belly, a sign that it is nursing well.

Zoon said that Mei Xiang was offered food but refused, which is normal for a panda that has recently given birth. She drank 56 ounces of diluted apple juice on Thursday. Mei Xiang started eating again two weeks after the birth of her son Tai Shan in 2005.

The newest cub’s gender has not be determined yet.

How giant panda cubs grow

The Zoo operates a round-the-clock panda cam for spectators to watch Mei Xiang, and now her newborn, any time.

Julie Zauzmer is a local news reporter.


Success! Check your inbox for details. You might also like:

Please enter a valid email address

See all newsletters

Show Comments
Most Read


Success! Check your inbox for details.

See all newsletters

Your Three. Videos curated for you.
Play Videos
From clubfoot to climbing: Double amputee lives life of adventure
Learn to make traditional soup dumplings
In defense of dads
Play Videos
How to make head cheese
Perks of private flying
The rise and fall of baseball cards
Play Videos
Husband finds love, loss in baseball
New hurdles for a Maryland tradition
How to survive a shark attack
Play Videos
Portland's most important meal of the day
What you need to know about Legionnaires' disease
How to save and spend money at college

To keep reading, please enter your email address.

You’ll also receive from The Washington Post:
  • A free 6-week digital subscription
  • Our daily newsletter in your inbox

Please enter a valid email address

I have read and agree to the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

Please indicate agreement.

Thank you.

Check your inbox. We’ve sent an email explaining how to set up an account and activate your free digital subscription.