What’s better than one happy, healthy, squeaky panda cub? Two happy, healthy, squeaky panda cubs!
The first came at 5:35 p.m.
“Mei Xiang reacted to the cub by picking it up,” the video description read—a promising sign that Mei Xiang is ready to be a mom.
The second cub came at 10:07 p.m.
The team at the Smithsonian immediately took one of the cubs and placed it into an incubator after the second was born, as per their “twin hand-rearing protocol,” according to the institute’s Facebook page.
[The Smithsonian panda team] plan to swap the cubs every three hours if possible. Per the Zoo’s Giant Panda Twin Hand-Rearing protocol, the team has developed a few different strategies and will continue to try different methods of swapping and hand-rearing. Much of that will be dictated by Mei. The panda team will alternately swap the cubs, allowing one to nurse and spend time with Mei while the other is kept warm in an incubator and bottle-fed as necessary. The primary goal for the panda team is for both cubs to have the benefit of nursing and spending time with their mother. It’s too early to guess about when the cubs will be placed together.
Pandas often give birth to two babies, but usually abandon one in favor of whichever cub seems to be healthier. Experts think pandas do this due to the immense resources and energy needed to raise a panda cub. The mother can usually only invest in one cub at a time, according to National Geographic.
But with the Smithsonian’s help, both cubs will hopefully make it to adulthood. The institute said they’re already thriving and “vocalizing well.” See for yourself:
“The cub is vulnerable at this tiny size, but we know Mei is an excellent mother,” zoo director Dennis Kelly told CNN.
According to CNN, Mei Xiang was artificially inseminated in April with semen from a panda in China and one of her zoomates, Tian Tian. Soon the zoo will perform a paternity test to find out the identity of the cubs’ baby daddy. Mei also has two other surviving cubs, Bao Bao at the Smithsonian and Tai Shan, living in China.
Update 1:34 pm CT Aug. 24: Not to be outdone, the China Conservation and Research Centre for the Giant Panda has also debuted photos of 10 new panda cubs. The site is in Chinese, but cute panda pictures are a universal language.
Screengrab via Smithsonian’s National Zoo/YouTube