The cub, named Kiara, was born last month in Novosibirsk Zoo in Siberia, and the zookeepers believe she’s the only liliger ever born in captivity. If you happen to visit Siberia, she’ll be available to see starting in October.
The National Zoo in Washington also saw another rare birth – giant panda Mei Xiang gave birth to a cub Sunday after a somewhat arduous fertilization process.
Mei Xiang had been artifically inseminated several times, and started showing behavioral signs that she was pregnant, such as grooming and cradling toys. This went on five times, with all of the episodes turning out to be “pseudopregnancies,” just the symptoms of pregnancy, but no baby. And it’s entirely surprising – zookeepers had a 10 percent chance of Mei Xiang conceiving.
Zookeepers haven’t gotten a chance to check on the cub yet, as they want to allow for mother-child bonding time. It’s likely that Mei Xiang won’t eat, drink or leave her den for at least a week. Quite a feat – I couldn’t do that and I’m not even an energy-depleted new mother.
To celebrate the birth of the National Zoo’s newest panda, I recommend reading this article by Robert Krulwich. It’s a touching piece on the inescapable unknowability of the panda… and something of a love letter.