Mei Xiang, the female giant panda at the Washington National Zoo, gave birth to two live cubs on Saturday.
The first cub was born at 5:35 p.m. and the second came along at 10:07 p.m., and also appears to be in good health, the Zoo announced.
The National Zoo kept panda-watchers up on the latest this weekend on its Facebook page:
“We have a cub! Giant panda Mei Xiang gave birth at 5:35 p.m. and reacted to the cub by picking it up. The panda team began preparing for a birth when they saw Mei Xiang’s water break at 4:32 pm and she was already having contractions. We’re monitoring Mei Xiang and the cub via the Zoo’s panda cams.”
“Chief vet Don Neiffer says cub is vocalizing well and Mei is a great mom. We’re watching 24-hours a day to monitor Mei and our new cub.”
A few hours later, more big news: “We can confirm a second giant panda cub was born at 10:07 pm. The panda team retrieved one of the cubs per “twin hand rearing” protocol and has placed it in an incubator. It appears to be in good health.”
The zoo released a video of Mei Xiang giving birth.
Mei Xiang gave birth to older sister Bao Bao two years ago, almost to the day, Aug. 23, 2013. At the time, she was compared to the size of a stick of butter.
The Zoo recently separated Bao Bao from her mother as part of her rite of passage, not unlike a teen going off to college.
Meanwhile National Zoo vets had been keeping an eye on Bao Bao’s mother, as she had been showing signs of pregnancy. Last week, for the first time at the zoo, veterinarians got their proof, detecting something new during an ultrasound procedure Wednesday morning. They said in a news release that they believed the ultrasound showed a developing panda fetus.
Mei Xiang has given birth to two surviving cubs: Tai Shan (tie-SHON) and Bao Bao. Tai Shan was born July 9, 2005, and he now lives in China. Bao Bao will celebrate her second birthday Sunday. She will live at the Zoo until she turns 4, and then go to live in China and, eventually, enter the giant panda breeding program. Tai Shan and Bao Bao were born as the result of artificial inseminations, which is the case in Saturday’s births as well.
The zoo will run tests on the new panda cubs to find out which of two male pandas is the father.
— National Zoo (@NationalZoo) August 23, 2015
More about mom Mei Xiang:
Mei Xiang (may-SHONG) was born on July 22, 1998. Her name means “beautiful fragrance.” She has black hip-high “stockings” extending up her hind legs, and the black band across her shoulders is wider in the middle than Tian’s. Her eye patches are oval, and a pale black band runs across the bridge of her nose. She weighs about 233 pounds.