The Washington Zoo revealed on Monday that the baby panda born this summer in front of cameras around the world was a male, thanks to a genetic test.
A small white head and two eyes circled in black, male and female babies have similar appearances at birth. Scientists therefore had to analyze DNA taken from the cheek of the animal born in August, which does not yet have a name, to determine its sex.
“The cub appears to be healthy and robust,” Smithsonian’s National Zoo said, adding that he weighed 1.6 kg and was 35 cm tall.
“The baby’s two eyes are opening. Zoo keepers find his progress encouraging, ”the institution added.
A painting with traces of blue paint affixed by the baby’s father, the panda Tian Tian, was presented by caretakers in order to reveal in a virtual staging the sex of the mammal.
The zoo had already set up a “panda cam” in August for panda admirers to follow the live birth of Mei Xiang, the baby’s mother.
22-year-old Mei Xiang was artificially inseminated on March 22 with frozen semen from Tian Tian, 23, also a resident of the zoo.
She is the second oldest female panda to give birth, according to data from scientists.
Since arriving in Washington, Mei Xiang has already had three surviving babies: two males – Tai Shan in 2005 and Bei Bei in 2015 – and a female, Bao Bao, in 2013.
The three pandas returned to China on their fourth birthday, following a partnership contract with the Chinese conservation center. He also plans the return to China of Mei Xiang and Tian Tian next December.
Fewer than 2,000 giant pandas still live in their natural habitat in central China, while 600 more live in zoos and breeding centers around the world, according to the Washington Zoo.