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Panda-monium
By Ezra Billinkoff

The giant panda cub, born July 9, 2005 at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C.
The giant panda cub, born July 9, 2005 at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C.
(Photo: AP Photo/National Zoo)
Wednesday, August 3—In June, there were 9. Now, the births of two giant-panda cubs within one month—one at the San Diego Zoo and the other at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C.—have brought the total number of pandas in the United States to 11.

Zoo officials reported late Tuesday night that the mother, Bai Yun, gave birth to a cub shortly before 10 p.m. at the San Diego Zoo. It is the third child for Bai Yun.

"The birth of a giant-panda cub is definitely something to celebrate," said Yadira Galindo, a spokeswoman for the San Diego Zoo.

The birth of Bai Yun's cub comes almost a month after the birth of another panda on the other side of the country at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C. On Wednesday morning, veterinarians were finally able to examine the baby cub after its mother, Mei Xiang, left it alone for the first time since its birth on July 9. They say the cub is a boy, but that its gender makes no difference to them.

"We're excited to have a healthy panda cub," said Lisa Stevens, an administrator at the National Zoo. "It doesn't matter what its sex is."

The new pandas are technically the property of China because their parents are on loan. Chinese officials can make a decision once the cubs are older if they will return to China or stay in the United States.

A Stick of Butter

When giant-panda cubs are born, they usually weigh between three and five ounces, about as heavy as a stick of butter. The National Zoo's panda cub has grown much larger since its birth and now weighs nearly two pounds.

The birth of a healthy panda cub often receives so much attention because the giant panda is an endangered species. There are approximately 1,600 giant pandas in the wild of their native China. With the recent births of these two cubs, the number of giant pandas in the United States has increased to 11.

The population of giant pandas is at risk because of the destruction of their natural habitat in China where they eat a soft wood called bamboo. Illegal hunters, called poachers, are also to blame for their low numbers.