By Ian Simpson
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A giant panda at Washington's National Zoo has given birth to a cub, the zoo said on Monday, ending the zoo's seven-year spell without panda offspring.
The panda, Mei Xiang, gave birth late on Sunday at the zoo's panda complex, the zoo said in a statement. She was artificially inseminated in April using thawed frozen sperm from the zoo's other giant panda, Tian Tian, after he failed to impregnate her.
Chief veterinarian Suzan Murray said that despite looking tired, Mei Xiang was sitting up and cuddling the cub more closely whenever it cried out.
"She is the poster child for a perfect panda mom," Murray said in a statement.
The two giant pandas are on loan from China, where as few as 1,600 of the black and white bears live in the wild, and are among Washington's top attractions. Although they have delighted crowds of visitors to their complex, they have produced only two cubs in their 11 years in Washington.
The pair's last cub, Tai Shan, was born in 2005 and lives in China, where pandas are an endangered species.
Don Moore, the zoo's associate director of animal care, told Washington's WTOP radio that the four-ounce (112-gram) cub would fit in the palm of a hand and could barely be glimpsed as the 250-pound (113-kg) Mei Xiang cuddled it.
The zoo is giving Mei Xiang complete seclusion and will monitor her and the cub via closed-circuit camera about two weeks, Moore said.
The cub may be ready for a live appearance in a couple of months, he said. The link for the pandas' camera is:
(Reporting by Ian Simpson; Editing by Vicki Allen)