Panda cub's true colors begin to show

Zookeepers have big hopes for their little panda. 
Image: Smithsonian National Zoological Park
Zookeepers have big hopes for their little panda. Image: Smithsonian National Zoological Park
He’s a scruffy little thing, weighed in ounces, but the newest panda is a media star. Already, his pictures are splattered on Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook and, of course, the Smithsonian National Zoological Park's homepage. 

   At the moment, the cub and his mom, Mei Xiang, are not on exhibit. (But visitors will be able to see the dad, Tian Tian, and another panda, Bao Bao, outside.) The David M. Rubenstein Family Giant Panda Habitat will reopen when the cub is about 4 months old, a zoo news release said.
   But did you know that the little guy can’t see anything yet? Until the cub is 6 to 8 weeks old, the baby panda will not open his eyes, according to the Smithsonian.
   Here are some fast facts about the new member of the family:

    At first there were twins. Sadly, the second panda cub died. This was the third time a giant panda living in the United States gave birth to twins, according to the Smithsonian.

    Think of them as tourists: They are from central China and live in bamboo forests. The cub’s mother and father are from China. After four years, the cub will go to his homeland.

    The distinctive black and white markings: The panda, born Aug. 22, is already developing black and white markings. Scientists aren’t exactly sure why pandas are black and white, according to the San Diego Zoo. The zoo offers two theories: The colors help pandas stand out, so that they can find each other to mate. Or, the colors actually act as a camouflage while bears are in treetops. While rare, some pandas are brown and white.

    Their diet: Bamboo, bamboo and more bamboo. They eat 26 to 84 pounds of it every day, according to the World Wildlife Fund. But they are listed as carnivores and will eat small rodents or musk deer fawns. The Smithsonian website points out that in captivity they will eat bamboo, sugar cane, rice gruel, a special high-fiber biscuit, carrots, apples and sweet potatoes.

    Not many left: The birth of the panda cub is to be celebrated. Pandas are considered endangered and, in fact, a panda has been used as the World Wildlife Fund’s logo since the organization was founded in 1961. There are just over 1,800 pandas in the wild, according to the fund. Other sources estimate 1,600.



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