Four months after being artificially inseminated, and mere days after an ultrasound confirmed the existence of a fetus, 17-year-old giant panda Mei Xiang gave birth last night (August 22) at the Smithsonian's National Zoo. And the results weren't just surprising for everyone who tuned in to watch via the zoo's live panda cam.
Helping this endangered species breed is an extremely difficult undertaking – the pandas have a fertility window of only 24 to 72 hours a year. After Mei was inseminated, the Washington, D.C. zoo had been on pins and needles for months, as ultrasounds were inconclusive up until recently – though Mei's handlers suspected she was with child based on her behavioral patterns.
So it was a huge relief when Mei's baby was confirmed just days ago.
Though zoo vets said the birth was still very risky, hence the reason all eyes were on Mei yesterday when the panda team announced they believed Mei was in labor.
It became official when her water broke (even she seems surprised!)
So it was a TRUE miracle of birth when – at 5:35pm ET on August 22 – Mei had a baby! Here's video:
And the lil guy's (or gal's – the gender is yet undetermined) first exam:
BUT WAIT – THAT'S NOT ALL!
Mei shocked her zookeepers by having a second baby at 10:07pm ET! Squeeeeeeeeee!
Doctors were surprised and obviously delighted by the unexpected second cub (an occurrence that happens about 50% of the time with panda births). Here's video of Mei birthing the twin while holding its sibling (seriously how sweet is that, we can't even!)
These two little ones join Mei's other children, Bao Bao – born in 2013 – and Tai Shan, born in 2005. There are less than 2,000 giant pandas worldwide, but thanks to the efforts of devoted vets like the team at the National Zoo, those numbers are slowly rising. Congratulations, Mei!