At just over six weeks old, the National Zoo’s healthy panda cub has lived the longest of any of the baby pandas ever born at the zoo. The tiny bear, who weighed only a few ounces at birth, has drawn more than one million viewers to a 24 hour webcam, according to the Washington Post.
The survival rate for young pandas is very low. Five cubs born in the 1980s to a different pair of giant pandas were stillborn or failed to live more than a few weeks due to infection or pneumonia. Those bears, given to the United States by China after Richard M. Nixon visited there in 1972, died in the ‘90s.
The couple at the National Zoo, Tian Tian and Mei Xiang, first began mating in 2002. Mei Xiang was finally able to conceive about five months ago with the help of artificial insemination.
Cubs generally stay with their mothers for 18 months. According to Chinese tradition, the male panda will be named 100 days after its birth. Under a 10 year, $10 million loan agreement, the cub will be sent to China when it is two years old.
About 1,600 giant pandas remain in China’s bamboo forests. Breeding them is difficult because females are only in heat for two to three days each year.
In the U.S., zoos in Atlanta, Memphis and San Diego house pandas. The San Diego Zoo has had two successful births.