Giant panda in Madrid zoo gives birth to male cub

Sat Aug 31, 2013 12:12pm EDT
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MADRID (Reuters) - A giant panda in Madrid zoo has given birth to a healthy male and the one-day old, pink-skinned cub is already proving a handful, screaming his way through his first medical checkup.

The new arrival, delivered after a natural birth in the early hours of Friday, is only the 10th specimen of the highly endangered animal in Europe, Madrid zoo said.

The cub - the third for Giant Panda Hua Zui Ba, whose twins born in 2010 have since been transferred to China - weighed in at a larger-than-average 210 grams and was 15 centimeters long.

"The team of specialists and veterinarians have confirmed it is a boy with a good set of lungs," the zoo said in a statement. "The new giant panda cub...has shown it has a lot of character."

Visitors will be unable to see Madrid's baby panda, which has not yet been named, for several months. Its Giant Panda mother was now unlikely to give birth to a second cub, the zoo said. Female pandas can often have two offsprings at a time.

Like Madrid's newest cub, most pandas bred in captivity are conceived through artificial insemination. Reproduction is difficult as females are only able to conceive for about two or three days in the spring.

There are roughly 300 giant pandas in captivity throughout the world, and fewer than 1,600 living in the wild, in a few mountain ranges in central China.

Britain is also gripped with "baby fever" over the possible birth of a panda at Scotland's Edinburgh zoo, expected within weeks.

Only 10 Giant Pandas now live in captivity in Europe, including in Edinburgh and Beauval in France. Vienna zoo's Giant Panda female gave birth to a cub in mid-August.

(Reporting by Sarah White, Editing by David Evans)