"A precious giant panda cub has arrived!" That was the excited tweet Friday evening from the National Zoo in Washington, DC, announcing the birth of what the Washington Post calls a "miracle cub." Giant panda Mei Xiang, 22, delivered a "wonderful, wiggly cub" at 6:35pm Friday, making her the oldest giant panda to ever give birth in the US and the second oldest recorded in the world (see the moment of the cub's arrival here). Mei Xiang also achieved another first: She's the first giant panda in the US to give birth after being inseminated with frozen semen, which was taken from her mate, Tian Tian, five years ago.
Zookeepers weren't sure that, at her advanced age, Mei Xiang could give birth to any more cubs. But they decided to give her one more chance, and in late July, she started showing signs she was pregnant. Two ultrasounds last week confirmed it, per the zoo. Giant pandas are only able to become pregnant for 24 to 72 hours each year. A neonatal exam and determination of the cub's gender will be determined down the road, per HuffPost. The zoo says Mei Xiang seems to be taking well to her new little one, "caring for her newborn attentively" by "nursing her cub and cuddling it close." The new panda, like the three other cubs Mei Xiang has given birth to, will be sent to China when it's 4 years old, under an agreement with the Chinese government. "In the middle of a pandemic, this is a joyful moment," the zoo's head veterinarian said last week. (Read more Mei Xiang stories.)