Any zoo that is home to a giant panda can count on it being one of the most popular exhibits at the facility. The crowds get even bigger if the female has a cub. With their distinctive black and white markings, giant pandas seem lumbering and friendly, unlike their grizzly cousins. A fully grown female giant panda will weigh about 220 pounds (100 kilograms). Their newborn cubs, however, are about the size of a stick of butter, which weighs just 4 ounces (113 grams). Since giant pandas tend to be solitary creatures, it's a challenge for any zoo to successfully mate a pair of pandas, and artificially inseminating a female does not always work. Add to that the challenge of having the female carry her cub or cubs to term and then being able to care for them properly. A successful mating and birth are causes for celebration at any zoo.
After a cub is born, the keepers will briefly take the cub in order to weigh it and assess its health, before returning it to the anxious mother. Panda moms and their cubs are closely monitored for any problems that arise with the cub's health, or the mother's ability to care for it.
More about giant pandas and their cubs:
- Giant panda cubs open their eyes when they are between six and eight weeks old.
- While it is pink and hairless at birth, a giant panda cub will begin to display its unique black and white markings by about three or four weeks old.
- About 13 zoos in the United States have hosted giant pandas in their enclosures. Currently, four zoos have the honor: The National Zoo in Washington, D.C.; Zoo Atlanta, in Georgia; the Memphis Zoo in Tennessee and the San Diego Zoo in California. The panda cub Bei Bei was born at the National Zoo on 22 August 2015.