Giant Panda Mei Xiang Gives Birth to Anchor Baby

After five failed pregnancies, officials at Washington D.C.'s National Zoo were mulling whether to deport Mei Xiang and get another giant panda from China.

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Kevin Lamarque / Reuters

Giant panda Mei Xiang sleeps at the National Zoo in Washington

On Sunday at 10.46 p.m., Mei Xiang and Tian Tian, giant pandas at Washington’s National Zoo, became the proud parents of their second cub.  The birth was a double blessing for the mother, Mei Xiang, who, after five failed pregnancies was due to be sent back to China. “If she hadn’t conceived this time there was some talk about sending her back to China and getting another female,” the Washington D.C. National Zoo’s reproductive physiologist Pierre Comizzoli told The Guardian.

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Zoos outside China pay up to $1 million per year for the right to host pandas, lethargic but lovable creatures that reliably generate both revenue and buzz for their host institutions. The Washington National Zoo live tweeted Mei Xiang’s artificial insemination in May. Last weekend, so many people logged in to watch the birth that the zoo’s website crashed.

But pandas abroad and their offspring retain their Chinese, er, nationality. As such, Mei Xiang’s first U.S.-born cub, Tai Shan, was returned to the China Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda in Wolong, Sichuan province. His younger sibling will stay with its mother for the next four years, the Zoo said in a press release. Mei Xiang, meanwhile, is scheduled to remain in the U.S. at least until 2015.

The baby panda has yet to be named. According to tradition, the newborn cub will be named a hundred days after its birth, the Chinese news agency Xinhua reported.

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