Raising the Lightest Giant Panda Cub

By iPanda

Newborn Giant Panda Cheng Lang (2019/2019) by iPandaiPanda

A female giant panda cub was born at the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding on June 11, 2019. It weighed only 42.8 grams, even lighter than an egg, becoming the lightest surviving newborn giant panda cub in the world.

Newborn Giant Panda Twins Cheng Feng and Cheng Lang (2019/2019) by iPandaiPanda

This severely underweight newborn giant panda cub has a twin sister with normal weight, weighing 171.9 grams at birth. The pair of twins were named Cheng Feng and Cheng Lang, which represent people’s good wish for them to ride the waves forward in life.   

Newborn Giant Panda Twins Cheng Feng and Cheng Lang (2019/2019) by iPandaiPanda

When the younger cub Cheng Lang was born, the experts and keepers on the scene were nervous and surprised, as it weighed only a quarter of the normal birth weight of panda cubs, and measured only two-thirds the length of her sister Cheng Feng.

There was an obvious difference in size when the two cubs were placed together. 

Giant Panda Cheng Lang at Four Days Old (2019/2019) by iPandaiPanda

The most proficient panda cub care expert team was dispatched to provide 24/7 feeding, supervision and care of Cheng Lang. Since it is too small, it could not obtain milk from its mother. Personnel at the base managed to acquire milk from its mother and then bottle-fed the cub.

Giant Panda Cheng Lang Sleeps in the Incubator (2019/2019) by iPandaiPanda

This tiny girl’s strong desire to survive was exemplified in its extraordinary perseverance. Under the meticulous care of the breeders, Cheng Lang grew every day, and its physical indicators of health gradually became normal.

Giant Panda Cheng Lang at One Month Old (2019/2019) by iPandaiPanda

On July 11, 2019, Cheng Lang became one month old and her weight grew to 600 grams. Her size approached that of her sister. 

Giant Panda Cheng Lang in the Pool (2021/2021) by iPandaiPanda

A miracle of life is created like this. Cheng Lang is a plump, healthy and cute big girl now. What about its current weight? Let’s keep it a secret!

Giant Panda Cheng Lang Rests in the Incubator (2019/2019) by iPandaiPanda

The Chengdu Panda Base believes 100 to 190 grams is the normal birth weight range for giant panda cubs. Any cub weighing less than 60 grams is considered severely underweight. At the Chengdu Panda Base, underweight newborns are usually one of a set of twins, while single cubs are born within the normal range.

Newborn Giant Panda Cheng Lang (2019/2019) by iPandaiPanda

Severely underweight newborn giant panda cubs are pocket sized, and their mobility is much weaker, their cries are much softer, and their barks are fainter when compared with average sized cubs. These severely underweight newborn panda cubs are under developed, which makes their survival extremely difficult.

Giant Panda Cheng Lang Sleeps in the Incubator (2019/2019) by iPandaiPanda

When a giant panda mother gives birth to a set of twins, she usually chooses the stronger cub to raise and discards the weaker one as a means of survival. 

When a giant panda mother gives birth to a set of twins, she usually chooses the stronger cub to raise and discards the weaker one as a means of survival. 

Giant Panda Wu Yi Rests in the Incubator (2006/2006) by iPandaiPanda

Experts at the Chengdu Panda Base refuse to give up on such a severely underweight giant panda cub; they make every effort to ensure its survival and healthy growth. In 2016, the base successfully reared Wu Yi, the lightest newborn giant panda at that time, whose birth weight was only 51 grams.

Giant Panda Cheng Lang at Four Days Old (2019/2019) by iPandaiPanda

When a severely underweight giant panda cub is born at the Chengdu Panda Base, the breeding team will arrange experienced breeding staff to maintain a 24-hour feeding and monitoring schedule. 

The breeding staff will quickly transfer the panda cub to the incubator, perform physical examination and provide thermal insulation to maintain a normal body temperature range of 36.5 to 37℃.

Giant Panda Cheng Lang Sleeps in the Incubator (2019/2019) by iPandaiPanda

When these giant panda cubs are within the critical time frame of of one week after birth, they will be unable to nurse effectively, so the staff will need to pump essential colostrum from the panda mother to bottle feed the cub.

Giant Panda Cheng Lang at Three Months Old (2019/2019) by iPandaiPanda

The keeper need to focus carefully on keeping giant panda cubs healthy on a daily basis as they are highly susceptible to disease, so they need to clean and disinfect the nursery to protect the cubs from bacterial viruses. Every keeper needs to wash their hands with disinfectant when in contact with the giant panda cub and wear full isolation clothing when entering the nursery or the panda mother’s enclosure.

Ensuring the survival of a severely underweight newborn panda cub requires an exceptional amount of knowledge, skill and experience.  

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