A giant panda gave birth to a cub at the San Diego Zoo Friday after two and a half hours in labor.
The cub is the fourth for Bai Yun, who was put on 24-hour watch after officials detected a fetus and fetal heartbeat through ultrasound images July 18. The cub’s gender was not immediately known.
“All we’ve seen so far is a leg and a tail,” said Dr. Ron Swaisgood, co-head of the zoo’s panda program.
The panda showed signs of labor early Friday, getting restless and frequently shifting position in a private den, Swaisgood said. When the cub finally came, Bai Yun quickly scooped it up and clutched it to her breast.
The cub hardly cried at all — evidence of its mother’s deftness.
“Usually the mother will bobble the cub or her paw will slip and the cub will cry until it’s repositioned,” Swaisgood said. “But (Bai Yun) was keeping that cub so content it didn’t cry at all. It made a few squawks and that was it.”
The newborn panda is about the size of a stick of butter, or one-thousandth the size of its mother, Swaisgood said.
Zookeepers won’t get near the cub for at least a few days. They hope to get a clear view of the creature on a closed-circuit camera, but typically a mother panda will hunch protectively over the cub to obscure it.
Bai Yun, which translates as White Cloud, appears to have been impregnated about eight weeks ago by Gao Gao, who is the father of two of her previous cubs, Mei Sheng and Su Lin.
“Gao Gao is a very proficient mater,” said Swaisgood, who noted the panda mated three times in one day last April.
Only about 1,600 giant pandas remain in the wild, and fewer than 180 live in captivity.