Giant pandas were once spread through China, Vietnam, and Burma but are now endangered, with only 1,800 animals believed to remain in the wild.
In 2012, Malaysia and China signed an agreement for 2 giant pandas to be loaned to Kuala Lumpur for 10 years. The pandas from Chengdu, China, would not only give Malaysia an opportunity to conduct panda-related conversation research but also mark Malaysia and China’s 40th anniversary of diplomatic ties.
Both pandas (one male and one female), which were later named Xing Xing and Liang Liang, arrived on 21st May 2014. They were and still are housed in a conservation and exhibition centre at Zoo Negara. But it looks like their little family has grown!
A couple of hours ago, it was announced that Liang Liang had given birth to a panda cub. According to a The Star Online report, the baby is about the size of a palm and is currently fiercely protected by its mother, who is being watched like a hawk by zoo authorities.
The unnamed newborn baby giant panda of Xing Xing and Liang Liang has not even opened its eyes but can be heard crying loudly, much to the delight of Zoo Negara staff.
Malaysian Zoological Society Giant Panda Conservation Centre and veterinary services director Dr Mat Naim Ramli said that it was a very thrilling time for the zoo. “We can see the legs and some parts of the body but the mother, Liang Liang, is very protective and is keeping her baby well hidden,” he said.
Take a look at some pictures of the panda cub:
*Pictures courtesy of Zoo Negara.
Just in case you’re wondering why it doesn’t look anything like you would imagine a baby panda to look like, well, when baby pandas are first born, they are pink, blind, and toothless. About 1 – 2 weeks after birth, the cub’s skin turns gray where its hair will eventually become black. Panda cubs typically begin to open their eyes around 40 days after birth and start developing the signature black and white pattern in a month.
The cub begins to crawl at 75 to 80 days; mothers play with their cubs by rolling and wrestling with them. The cubs can eat small quantities of bamboo after 6 months, though mother’s milk remains the primary food source for most of the first year. Giant panda cubs weigh 45 kg (100 pounds) at 1 year and live with their mothers until they are 18 months to 2 years old.
Dr Mat Naim said it was also too early to determine the gender of the baby, adding that officials would be observing the family closely. He added, “We can hear it crying. It’s a loud sound and that’s great.”
It was reported that Malaysia would get to keep the cub of the 2 giant pandas if they successfully mated in Zoo Negara. Once the baby reaches 3 years of age, its parents would be sent back to China.
Congratulations, Xing Xing and Liang Liang!