PHOTOS: Endangered red panda born at Smithsonian

Scientists weigh the red panda cub a week after its birth. (Courtesy Jessica Kordell/Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute)
Scientists weigh the red panda cub a week after its birth. (Courtesy Jessica Kordell/Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute) (Courtesy Jessica Kordell/Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute)
Scientists weigh the red panda cub a week after its birth. (Courtesy Jessica Kordell/Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute) (Courtesy Jessica Kordell/Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute)
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Scientists weigh the red panda cub a week after its birth. (Courtesy Jessica Kordell/Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute)

A red panda cub was born overnight June 12 at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Front Royal, Virginia.

The new mom, a 4-year-old red panda named Moonlight, and her cub appear to be doing well, according to the Smithsonian, and keepers are “cautiously optimistic” about the cub’s future.

Moonlight only leaves the nest box, where her cub was born, for short periods of time to eat and drink. Otherwise, the experienced mom stays in the box to groom and nurse her cub.

Keepers performed a visual exam and weighed the cub on June 19, during the short time Moonlight left the nest box. It weighed in at 6 ounces, which is normal for a cub, Smithsonian says.

The cub will stay in the nest box for the next two to three months. It will soon open its eyes, begin walking, and turn a rusty red color that gives the species its name.

Native to bamboo forests in Asia, red pandas are endangered due to habitat loss caused by logging and human development. Their populations have declined by as much as 50% in the past 20 years, the Smithsonian says.

Smithsonian breeds and studies red pandas, creating an insurance population in case of their extinction.

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