The Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Front Royal, Virginia, welcomed a new red panda cub, when four-year-old Moonlight gave birth on June 12, it was announced earlier this week.
According to the Institute, both the cub and the mother are in good health, and keepers are “cautiously optimistic that the cub will continue to grow.”
The pair are being monitored through a CCTV camera and the new mom was seen nursing the baby panda. She only leaves the nest box temporarily for eating or drinking.
Keepers had the chance to weigh the cub on June 19, when Moonlight was out of the nest box. And it weighed in at six ounces (172 grams), a normal weight for a newborn, while its sex is unclear at the moment.
They will be monitored over the next few weeks, as that will be a crucial period of time for the cub, which is expected to open its eyes and start walking in two-three months. Moonlight will keep her baby until it is one year to 18 months old.
“It is covered in a thick woolly layer of fur that will become thicker and in the coming months turn the iconic rusty red color that gives red pandas their name,” the Institute website said.
???? A red panda cub was born at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute June 12! The cub and its mom Moonlight appear to be doing well. Moonlight has been very attentive nursing and grooming the cub. ➡️https://t.co/xccIn8qaxP #WeSaveSpecies #RedPanda #RedPandaCub pic.twitter.com/vz0aqWvYk2
— National Zoo (@NationalZoo) June 26, 2019
Two years ago, Moonlight had another baby named Starlight, who was later moved to Rochester, New York. The Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute is currently home to three other red pandas, aside from Moonlight and her baby.
According to the Institute, red pandas are classified as “endangered” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. The population of the species in the wild has dropped by 50 percent over the past 20 years, primarily due to habitat loss linked to logging and human development.
The Institute is part of the Red Panda Species Survival Plan and “breeds and studies red pandas to create an insurance population against extinction.”