Friday, December 3, 2010

He's a handful - but just barely: Rare peek at the baby giant panda so small he doesn't yet have a name

Little bundle of joy: A baby giant panda, born November 3, is held by Dr Hayley Murphy, left, and Amy Allagnon during a check up at Zoo Atlanta today

He's still smaller than a house cat - but this baby giant panda is growing fast.

Veterinarians have declared the Zoo Atlanta newborn cub - who, at just over a foot long, weighs just 2.2lbs - healthy and happy.

The cub, who is just one month old, has not been named yet. The zoo says he will be named when he is 100 days old, following Chinese tradition.

Hello world! The little fellow, who has not yet been named, appears to be waving during a veterinary exam in Atlanta today

He is so young that he is still being shielded from the public while he grows stronger. Zoo officials will not place him in the spotlight until he is at least four months old and can walk.

In the meantime, though, he is already proving a handful.

During a weekly exam the cub was quiet, laying in a small bed as two veterinarians listened to his heart beat. He wriggled around a bit as the vets took various measurements.

'His abdomen's really round and full, and that's what we really like in a baby,' said Dr Hayley Murphy, director of veterinary services at Zoo Atlanta.

When I grow up: Veterinary technician Amy Allagnon cradles the baby in her hands as Dr Hayley Murphy, director of veterinary services, looks on during the checkup today

Growing big and strong: Dr Murphy measures the panda's paw. When he can walk on his own he will be introduced to the public

'That just tells us he's eating well and his abdomen's full of milk.'

Before he was brought into the exam room, the cub could be heard making a squawking sound, like a bird. Zoo staff said he was calling to his mother because he had rolled onto his back after she set him down.

'He's still kind of categorized as a newborn so, you know, he should not be that active yet,' Dr Murphy said.

'They should be fairly quiet, not too squirmy, relaxed. As long as he's warm and well-fed, he's like any other infant, he's happy.'

Bye for now: The panda snoozes in a warm blanket. Dr Murphy said that as long as he was well fed and warm he would be happy

This is the third cub for the cub's mother, Lun Lun. She was inseminated earlier this year with the sperm of her mate, Yang Yang. The duo's other cubs are Mei Lan, born in 2006, and Xi Lan, born in 2008.

Zoo Atlanta has had Lun Lun and Yang Yang for a decade.

Xi Lan still lives in Atlanta, but his older sister Mei Lan was returned to China in February to help breed more of the endangered animals. China owns all the pandas in the United States, even the cubs that are born here.

Atlanta is one of four U.S. zoos with giant pandas. The others are San Diego, Memphis and Washington, D.C.

Researchers estimate there are only 1,600 to 3,000 of the endangered species remaining in the wild, and another 200 in captivity.

Until the panda is on public display, fans can watch the cub's growth on the zoo's online panda cam.

source :dailymail

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