What’s black and white and seen all over the world?

Bao Bao hides from mother, Mei Xiang, in their panda habitat at the National Zoo in Washington. (© AP images)

The recent birth of a cub to panda Mei Xiang at Washington’s Smithsonian National Zoo has thrilled the nearly 1 million people who have tuned in to the National Zoo’s Panda Cam. If that’s not exciting enough, older sister Bao Bao also turned 2 on August 23. (Sadly, the new cub’s littermate died after four days.)

Scientists are also thrilled. Pandas are endangered and the subject of international efforts to breed more. Mei Xiang’s recent offspring brought to 16 the number of giant pandas successfully bred with the help of the Chengdu Panda Base, a collaborative research effort between China, Japan, the U.S., Spain and France.

Pandas, native only to China, are housed around the world in captivity. The United States has the second-highest number of giant pandas. (State Dept.)

The Washington Post reported that shortly after the birth, Copper Aitken-Palmer, chief veterinarian at the Smithsonian’s Conservation Biology Institute, shared the good news with colleagues at a panda breeding center in Wolong, China, and sought to tap into their experience with panda cubs. China has had many successes in breeding giant pandas. By sharing this knowledge it has helped increase the panda population and the number of people enjoying panda exhibits around the world.

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Around 6:30 a.m. veterinarians examined the cub Mei Xiang gave birth to at 5:35 p.m. on Aug. 22. Upon exam, this cub is vocalizing well and appears strong. They plan to swap the cubs every three hours if possible. Per the Zoo’s Giant Panda Twin Hand-Rearing protocol, the team has developed a few different strategies and will continue to try different methods of swapping and hand-rearing. Much of that will be dictated by Mei. The panda team will alternately swap the cubs, allowing one to nurse and spend time with Mei while the other is kept warm in an incubator and bottle-fed as necessary. The primary goal for the panda team is for both cubs to have the benefit of nursing and spending time with their mother. It's too early to guess about when the cubs will be placed together. #PandaStory #WeSaveSpecies #InstaScience @smithsonian

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Watch the pandas as they grow fluffier at a zoo near you, or at the San Diego Zoo’s Panda Cam, and learn more about careers in conservation.