When 22-year-old giant panda Mei Xiang gave birth to a healthy cub on August 21, 2020, Smithsonian's National Zoo officials were both excited and anxious. That's because giant panda cubs, which weigh about 100 grams — the equivalent of a stick of butter — when born, are challenging to keep alive. Unable to see, hear, or crawl, the helpless infants are completely reliant on their mothers for food and protection. As it turns out, they had little to worry about. The newborn, who celebrated his eight-week birthday on October 16, 2020, is thriving under Mei Xiang's care and showing signs of becoming a feisty toddler.
"Mei Xiang has started carrying her cub to the door and several feet out into the enclosure. Now that he’s getting older, she will start to bring him on these 'field trips' more frequently," said zoo officials.
On October 15, 2020, zookeepers lured away the ever-diligent Mei Xiang — with a popsicle made from diluted apple juice — and examined the infant's health and progress. They were thrilled to see that the adorable male panda cub — whose gender was revealed two weeks ago with a painting created by his father, Tian Tian — has experienced a tremendous growth spurt.
Since his October 7, 2020, weigh-in, the cub has gained a pound and now tips the scale at 5.4 pounds (2.47 kilograms). He has also increased in length by 1.5 inches and currently measures 16.5 inches from the tip of his nose to the base of his tail. The biggest gain, however, is around the midsection. The plump cub's abdominal girth has grown 2.2 inches — from 13.7 inches to 15.9 inches!
Even more exciting, the feisty cub — whose eyes and ears are now fully open — turned his head as the zookeepers were calling out the measurements to follow where the voices were coming from, and even barked at them! In keeping with Chinese tradition, the newborn's name will be announced after he is 100 days old. While COVID-19 restrictions will make it hard for fans to participate in-person for the elaborate naming ceremony, the zoo's officials have promised that everyone will get to join in the fun online — so stay tuned.