WASHINGTON (WUSA) -- Shama, a female red panda at the Smithsonian's National Zoo, didn't respond to keepers' call early on June 17. Apparently, something else kept her busy - taking care of her new-born babies.
Zoo staff first heard a slight squeal, but didn't check the nest box until six days later. The mother and cubs thus had plenty of private time to bond. Shama gave birth to two babies, so did Lao Mei, another red panda at the Zoo's Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Front Royal. Her cubs are 12 days older than Shama's cubs.
During this critical phase for cubs, staff try not to interfere and only enter their den when the opportunity presents itself. When handling the cubs, they wear double gloves to cover human scents. A cloth set, rubbed with nesting material and scented with the mother's feces, goes over a standard rubber one.
Under such meticulous care, all four newborns are healthy and steadily gaining weight. The two cubs in the National Zoo will remain a mystery until fall. Staff has to wait for Shama to allow her cubs venturing out of the den, and then decide when it's suitable to exhibit them.
Since 1962, over 100 surviving red panda cubs have been born at the Zoo's Front Royal and Washington facilities.
Written by Cecily Deng