Getting a baby to sleep through the night can be difficult — and no less so than when the newborn in question is a tiny, nearly fur-less ursine nugget whose every move is being documented on a webcam.
Yes, we’re talking about the National Zoo’s newest member, the cub birthed by giant panda Mei Xiang last week.
The zoo’s “Panda Cam” offered viewers their first sustained glimpse of the growing cub when Mei Xiang twice briefly left her baby on the floor of her den to get a drink of water overnight.
The zoo posted the clip on its website and on its “Giant Panda Bulletin.” The video shows Mei Xiang place the mewling cub on the floor and step out of view.
Once mom is away, the cub caterwauls its displeasure as the camera zooms in for a close-up. All is calm once Mei Xiang ambles back in and scoops her cub back up to cradle it back to sleep.
Beyond being thirsty, the zoo said Mei Xiang is “testing” the cub’s reaction to being left alone.
During a cub’s first few days, a mother panda is with her cub around the clock, often putting off eating and drinking, because their cubs don’t have enough fur to stay warm on their own.
“Now that Mei Xiang has started leaving her den to drink, this is a positive sign that the cub can stay warm on its own for short periods,” the post on the zoo’s website said.
Eventually, Mei Xiang will spend more time away from the den, zookeepers said. And it’s at that point, the panda team can swoop in and conduct a quick exam.
“Mei Xiang’s behavior will dictate how much time keepers have with the cub, but we hope to do a quick check of its body parts, obtain its weight and measurements, and take a cheek swab, which will allow us to analyze the cub’s DNA and determine its sex.”