We have a new addition to our panda collection at the San Diego Zoo. At 4:58 this morning, Bai Yun gave birth to a vigorous, squawking infant! The staff here is elated and is, as always, in awe of Bai Yun and her perfect maternal skills. Here’s video of the birth.
She had appeared more restless than usual in the last 24 hours, resting for shorter periods with intermittent nest building through the day and night. At about 2:45 this morning, she was observed leaning back and holding her feet. Regular changes of position become common at this stage of labor, and contractions were evident as the time went by. Bai Yun handled it all well, and staff agreed that this seemed like one of her easiest labors.
At 4:58 a.m., Bai Yun stood up and had a series of contractions while on all fours. With the last one, we suddenly heard the loud squawking we had all been anticipating. As Bai Yun turned around to gather up the cub, we all got a glimpse at a wriggling infant on the floor, crying loudly for attention. Bai Yun immediately attended to her newest offspring and spent the next half hour or so soothing it, cradling it in her arms and licking it.
Listen to a recording of the new cub’s cries just after birth:
Over the next two hours, Bai Yun alternated between periods of cub care, cleaning herself, and rest. By the end of that period, we were already hearing short, 20-minute bouts of quiet from the cub, signifying the onset of resting periods. We aren’t able to confirm nursing at this point, because Bai Yun is doing a great job of covering her infant, but by the end of that two-hour period we believe there had been at least one bout of nursing. This we surmise because of indicators such as Bai Yun’s position and the cub’s location on her body.
Over the next 12 to 24 hours, we anticipate our new mother will settle into a routine of nursing, cub grooming, and resting. The regular bouts of panting will begin to diminish. If there is a twin to be born, it should happen soon, but we don’t believe there is a high degree of likelihood a second cub will be born at this point.
Congratulations to Bai Yun on another job well done!
Suzanne Hall is the senior research technician for the San Diego Zoo’s Institute for Conservation Research