KUALA LUMPUR: It may only be about the size of a palm, but it is fiercely protected by its mother, watched like a hawk by zoo authorities and is creating excitement around the world.
The unnamed newborn baby giant panda of Xing Xing and Liang Liang has not even opened its eyes but can be heard crying loudly, much to the delight of Zoo Negara staff.
Malaysian Zoological Society Giant Panda Conservation Centre and veterinary services director Dr Mat Naim Ramli said that it was a very thrilling time for the zoo.
“We can see the legs and some parts of the body but the mother, Liang Liang, is very protective and is keeping her baby well hidden,” he said.
When born, giant panda cubs are pink, blind and almost hairless. They typically begin to open their eyes around 40 days after birth and start developing the signature black and white pattern in a month.
Dr Mat Naim said it was also too early to determine the gender of the baby, adding that officials would be observing the family closely.
“We can hear it crying. It’s a loud sound and that’s great.” When asked about previous concerns that the two adult pandas were not “hitting it off”, Dr Mat said that this was what the authorities observed.
“We tried to create the best conditions for them to mate but there was not a lot of activity between the male and female,” he said, adding that they obviously overcame their intimacy issues.
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak first shared the good news on his social media pages that Liang Liang had given birth.
“Gembira mendapat berita bahawa Liang Liang, panda di Zoo Negara, telah selamat melahirkan seekor anak pada 1.45 tengah hari tadi (Happy to know that Liang Liang, one of the pandas in Zoo Negara, safely gave birth to a baby panda at 1.45pm today),” he wrote.
On his Chinese Facebook page, Najib promised that the zookeepers would take good care of the cub.
“We will ensure the family of three is happy and remains in our country in good health,” he added.
Xing Xing and Liang Liang, from Chengdu, China, were loaned via the Giant Panda International Conservation Cooperation Agreement Programme and arrived in Malaysia on May 21 last year.
The agreement signed in 2012 gives Malaysia an opportunity to conduct panda-related conservation research, besides developing local expertise on pandas over a 10-year period.
It was reported that Malaysia would get to keep the cub of the two giant pandas if they successfully mated in Zoo Negara.
Once the baby reaches three years of age, its parents would be sent back to China.