Bai Yun, a 21-year-old panda at the San Diego Zoo, gave birth to a panda cub on the afternoon of Sunday, July 29. Zoo staffers had known she was pregnant but been wary about getting their hopes up after Bai Yun had an unsuccessful pregnancy last year and also due to her age. The new panda is Bai Yun’s sixth, a record for members of the endangered species born in captivity.
Bai Yun and Gao Gao, her 20-year-old regular mate with whom she’d previously had four cubs, are in San Diego through next year as part of a program with China. The cub, who now weighs about 4 ounces, will not be named until it is 100 days ago, with her or his name to be determined via an online poll. The cub’s gender will also not be determined until keepers are able to examine the new panda; mother and baby will be sequestered for five months in her den. The zoo has put up a “Panda Cam.”
Those wishing to learn most about the zoo’s new arrival can view the little panda prior to her or his birth. CNET’s Daniel Terdiman was able to visit with Bai Yun’s medical team earlier this month when they were conducting an ultrasound, to better help them determine if Bai Yun was pregnant after suspecting such on the basis of hormone testing and behavioral observations.
A new device called a forward-looking infrared camera (FLIR) — originally developed for military testing — helped zoo staff determine that Bai Yun was indeed expecting.
Terdiman also posts a video of a San Diego Zoo veterinarian explaining the ultrasound:
Zoo veterinarians say that the weekly ultrasound testings on Bai Yun also have enabled them to learn more about panda pregnancies and fetal growth rates.
It was only about a week before Bai Yun gave birth that zoo staff detected a heartbeat and, at that time, the zoo’s director of reproductive physiology, Barbara Durrant, told Terdiman that things were not looking so good. It’s all the more reason to celebrate the birth of the Bai Yun’s new baby.
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