Zoo Atlanta's baby panda makes his debut

ATLANTA - December 2, 2010

The cub, who will be named when he is 100 days old following Chinese tradition, will be placed in public viewing areas when he can walk, usually around 4 months old. He measures just over a foot long and weighs 2.2 pounds.

Reporters were allowed to watch the exam. During it, the cub was quiet, laying in a small bed as two veterinarians listened to his heart beat. He wriggled around a bit as the vets took various measurements.

"His abdomen's really round and full and that's what we really like in a baby," said Dr. Hayley Murphy, director of veterinary services at Zoo Atlanta. "That just tells us he's eating well and his abdomen's full of milk."

Before he was brought into the exam room, the cub could be heard making a squawking sound, like a bird, and zoo staff said he was calling to his mother because he had rolled onto his back after she set him down.

"He's still kind of categorized as a newborn so, you know, he should not be that active yet," Murphy said. "They should be fairly quiet, not too squirmy, relaxed. As long as he's warm and well-fed, he's like any other infant, he's happy."

This is the third cub for the cub's mother, Lun Lun (loon loon). She was inseminated earlier this year with the sperm of her mate, Yang Yang. The duo's other cubs are Mei Lan (may lahn), born in 2006, and Xi Lan (she lahn), born in 2008.

Zoo Atlanta has had Lun Lun and Yang Yang for a decade.

Xi Lan still lives in Atlanta, but his older sister Mei Lan was returned to China in February to help breed more of the endangered animals. China owns all the pandas in the United States, even the cubs that are born here.

Atlanta is one of four U.S. zoos with giant pandas. The others are San Diego, Memphis and Washington, D.C.

Researchers estimate there are only 1,600 to 3,000 of the endangered species remaining in the wild, and another 200 in captivity.

Until the panda is on public display, fans can watch the cub's growth on the zoo's online panda cam.

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