While most people who earn veterinary technician degrees find themselves working with cats, dogs and other common household pets, some will get the opportunity to care for more exotic animals. The truly talented and lucky ones might even get the chance to be a part of something special, like the birth of a baby giant panda, which took place at The National Zoo in Washington, D.C., on Aug. 23.1
Panda birth makes headlines
Most successful live animal births at our nation’s zoos get little notice, but when a baby panda is born it makes global headlines. Due to their rarity, the fact they can be an upbeat story in a time of turmoil and, undeniably, because of their overwhelming cuteness factor, panda births take hold of the American psyche in a way few other events are able to duplicate. The most recent panda birth is no exception.
The female baby giant panda, as yet-unnamed in adherence to the Chinese custom of waiting 100 days after the birth to bestow a moniker, is apparently doing well, according to zoo veterinarians who recently completed a physical on the infant. Born to National Zoo residents Tian Tian, who is the father, and Mei Xiang, the mother, the newest addition to the family has yet to open her eyes, but she has already become an international celebrity.
Results of baby panda’s first physical are very encouraging
Giant panda births are often tricky – as was seen with the Aug. 23 delivery, where only one of the two twins survived – so they require that only the most expert veterinarians and certified veterinary technicians be involved in the procedure. That makes the announcement of a healthy physical examination all the more exciting news for the general public and people within the veterinary community alike.
According to zoo officials, the baby panda appears to be thriving and is “growing exponentially.” Already nearly as round as she is long. Weighing in at less than two pounds and measuring 10.6 inches long and 9.8 inches around at her first physical on Sept. 16,2 she should start opening her eyes by the middle of October, but is already beginning to show the characteristic black and white markings for which giant pandas are known.
“It’s amazing to see how much she has grown in less than one month,” Senior Curator and Curator of Giant Pandas Brandie Smith said in a statement.3 “Mei Xiang continues to be a great mom, as she was with her first cub, Tai Shan, and it shows.”
1 Weil, Marting, “National Zoo’s Panda Cub Turns 1-month old,” The Washington Post, Sept. 20, 2013. http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/giant-panda-cub-turns-1-month-old/2013/09/20/a1542644-225c-11e3-b73c-aab60bf735d0_story.html
2 Bui, Hoai-Tran, “National Zoo’s Panda Cub Receives First Veterinary Exam,” NBCWashington.com, Sept. 17, 2013. http://www.nbcwashington.com/news/local/National-Zoo-Panda-Cub-Receives-First-Veterinary-Exam-224115341.html
3 National Zoo Press Release, “National Zoo’s Giant Panda Cub Receives Her First Full Veterinary Exam,” Friends of the National Zoo,” Sept. 17, 2003. http://nationalzoo.si.edu/publications/pressmaterials/pressreleases/press-release.cfm?id=603