Saturday, July 27, 2013

Still Life With Robin: Guess Who Might Be Having a Baby?

Photo by Colegata via Wikimedia Commons
by Peggy Robin

Just when you thought you've heard the last of breathless "pregnancy watch" news reports from England, we find out we're on baby watch right here in our own neighborhood. Our own much beloved Woodley Park resident, Mei Xiang, just might be expecting again (see DCist for details).

I am so much more fascinated by the prospect of a new panda baby at the National Zoo than I am about the recent and much over-hyped arrival of yet another heir to the British throne. There no shortage of Windsor princes and princesses running around, and any one of them would make an acceptably fine king or queen -- able to wave well enough, and look suitably dignified at ceremonies. But panda babies are something much rarer -- and they're more cuddly, too.

Unlike the Duchess of Cambridge, poor old Mei Xiang has been trying so hard over so many years to produce offspring. In the decades she's been at it, she's had just one cub that made it --Tai Shan-- and he was shipped off to China at the ripe old age of four. Last year Mei Xiang finally succeeded in having another baby, only to lose the newborn to an infection less than a week later.

So now we wait and watch and hope. You can do your watching on the Zoo's new and improved panda-cam ( -- although most of the time, to be perfectly honest about it, for action level it's about on par with watching paint dry.

Between now and the expected time of birth (sometime in September), you might want to watch something a bit more thrilling -- so why not take a look at the video of the most recently arrived little panda babies, the newborn twins of Lun Lun, the panda mom at Zoo Atlanta: Scroll about halfway down  the page to the video labeled Giant Panda Twins Birth.

The written narrative of the birth and the first two weeks of their lives also tells the mind-blowing story of how the zoo caretakers have been keeping one cub in an incubator for a few hours and then swapping it for the other cub -- in effect, tricking Lun Lun into thinking that she's caring for a single cub. Read how it's done at

Just imagine if they could do that with a pair of royal twins. Now that would make a great movie plot! Oh wait, it's the Prisoner of Zenda, and they're identical cousins, not twins, but let's not quibble about the details. If you're looking for something diverting to watch (other than the panda cam, of course), I recommend the 1937 movie version available on Amazon: It's in black & white, just like a panda.


Still Life With Robin is published on the Cleveland Park Listserv,, and on All Life Is Local on Saturdays.

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