CBSN

Baby Boom For US Giant Pandas

It's a mini-baby boom for giant pandas in the U.S.

Mei Xiang, the one in the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., had a cub almost three weeks ago.

Bai Yun, in the San Diego Zoo, is pregnant with twins. And the giant panda in Atlanta's zoo, Lun Lun, is showing signs of being pregnant, reports CBS News Correspondent Joie Chen on The Early Show.

The view from a video camera, focused on Mei Xiang and her newborn, is as close as anyone has gotten to checking out the baby, Chen says.

Even the woman who made the birth possible, Dr. JoGayle Howard of the National Zoo, hasn't dared to come between mother and cub.

"It starts out three or four ounces, so we haven't touched this cub yet. We're waiting for her to get kinda comfortable leaving it," Howard says.

Howard led the team that artificially inseminated the panda, a notoriously difficult process.

But, obviously, it worked.

Now nearly three weeks old, the little panda has begun to show its black markings, but still weighs less than a pound, is blind, and completely dependent on mom, Chen observes.

Mei Xiang is "a cradler," Howard says. "She cradles the baby and nurses it pretty high up."

In San Diego, veterinarians aren't sure both Bai Yun's twins will survive. She's due any day.

Things are looking up for the giant panda, Chen notes, and not just in zoos.

The number of pandas in the wild was up nearly 50 percent in the latest headcount. Some 1,600 of the black-and-white beasts are thought to roam China's bamboo groves today.

But the panda remains an endangered species. And for now, the newest addition to the world's panda population is very well protected, by her mother. It will be at least two months before the tiny panda is big enough, and strong enough, to go on display.