National Zoo and Washington media more than a little attached to the new panda cub

Stop everything. In what is easily the most important D.C. event of the summer, a highly endangered and damn cute mammal species has just added one more to its number. At least, that’s what the National Zoo and some Washington media outlets are making it seem like.

The National Zoo’s resident panda motherĀ Mei Xiang gave birth to a cub on Friday evening, but the panda’s pregnancy has long been receiving coverage. Last August, many wondered if Mei Xiang was pregnant. Even the giant panda’s breaking her water was reported as breaking news.

Since Mei Xiang went into labor, the National Zoo has been borderline live-tweeting the panda’s every move like she’s the Tsarnaev brothers on the run through Boston.

Nearly 24 hours after the first birth, Mei Xiang birthed a stillborn cub, which zookeepers recovered shortly after Mei Xiang discarded it. They discovered that the second cub was deformed and was not alive at any point near its birth.

Before realizing that a second, stillborn cub was born, however, zookeepers monitoring Mei Xiang via camera thought that the first cub had died and the zookeepers freaked out. During what they described as “five minutes of pure terror” and “full-blown panic,” the zookeepers scrambled to understand what could have killed the cub. After hearing the first cub squeal, the zookeepers realized that the first cub was safe and they were looking at a new, stillborn one.

Mei’s first cub is healthily nursing in the care of its mother and has been examined by zoo workers, who took a swab of DNA from the cub. The DNA will be used to determine the cub’s father, since Mei Xiang was artificially inseminated with semen from two male pandas last year.

Photo: Smithsonian’s National Zoo via Flickr

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