The Washington National Zoo has confirmed that their 6-week old baby panda is a boy.
The gender reveal was made in a video released by the zoo, where panda-keepers unveiled a canvas smeared with blue markings that was painted by the baby’s father, Tian Tian.
The still-unnamed baby panda, born Aug. 21, received a genetic test via cheek swab that confirmed the gender. Photos and videos released by the zoo show the baby, which was born pink, blind and nearly hairless, starting to take on the familiar black-and-white coloring.
The mother, Mei Xiang, was artificially inseminated in the spring shortly after the entire zoo shut down on March 14 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Normally, panda-keepers would have used a combination of frozen sperm and fresh semen extracted from Tian Tian. But in order to minimize the number of close-quarters medical procedures, zoo officials used only frozen semen.
It was the first successful procedure of its kind in the U.S. using only frozen sperm. Mei Xiang, at 22, is the oldest giant panda to successfully give birth in the United States. The oldest in the world gave birth in China at age 23.
Mei Xiang has three surviving offspring, Tai Shan, Bao Bao and Bei Bei, which were transported to China at age 4 under an agreement with the Chinese government.
With the indoor section of the panda house closed due to COVID-19 restrictions, the zoo’s popular panda cam is still the only way to view the newborn. The zoo reopened on a limited basis July 24 with visitors needing timed passes to keep the crowds down.
It was too early to tell whether the infant is male or female but the baby marked the fourth successful pregnancy for Mei Xiang, a 22-year-old panda who, because of her advanced age, had a slim chance of having a healthy cub, zoo officials said.