Saturday, September 7, 2013

Still Life With Robin: It's a (Panda) Girl!

Smithsonian National Zoo Twitter Pic
by Peggy Robin

Just about a year ago, on September 17, 2012, Mei Xiang, the female panda at the National Zoo (does anyone need to be told who she is?), gave birth to a cub. Extreme pandaphile that I am, I was over-the-moon ecstatic, and immediately wrote a column in delirious celebration ( The day after the column appeared -- just five days after the panda's birth-- it died.

About two weeks ago, on Friday, August 23, Mei Xiang produce another live cub. I have been holding my breath since then. After the birth announcement, I have held off writing anything more about it for these two weeks, this time treating the event as one ought to do according to the old Chinese folk custom: not celebrating a life too new, lest jealous spirits are moved to find a way to steal something so bright and wondrous as this beautiful creature and bear it away to their shadowy world.

Then yesterday, the Zoo trumpeted, "It's a Girl!" and unveiled the results of the paternity test. (Yes, it's our male panda, Tian Tian, thankfully, and not Gao Gao, that stud from the San Diego Zoo, who hasn't even so much as glanced at Mei Xiang, much less formed any feelings toward with her.)

Now that these details have come out, and the black & white fur is growing in on the cub's formerly pinkish body, I'm feeling it's safe to acknowledge its existence. Yes, it's here, and even if we're not yet at the 100-day mark --the traditional date on which Chinese will name a newborn -- I'm ready to declare that it is the cutest baby animal on the planet. Just take a look:

If you share my enthusiasm, you might want to keep up with the hashtag #cubwatch on the National Zoo's twitter feed:

While we won't get a chance to see this little one in real life until she's four months old, here's one thing you can do right now (if you haven't already): Join FONZ, and you'll will be on the special invitation list to see the panda cub ahead of the crowds that will form long, long lines when the public at large is allowed to visit. Go to


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

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