Panda cub's markings start to show

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(CNS) – The giant panda born at the San Diego Zoo nearly two weeks ago is starting to get its coloring, zoo officials announced today. Black markings on the unnamed panda were first visible Thursday, they said.

The cub, born July 29, remains small enough to fit in the paws of its mother, Bai Yun. Its sex won’t be determined until animal care staff give it a physical examination, probably around two months from now.

Until then, they keep an eye on the panda via the PandaCam, a web camera set up in the den.

Bai Yun has kept her offspring close to her body to keep the cub warm and fed. According to the zoo, when she stepped outside her den on Thursday to get a drink of water, a black saddle was visible across the cub’s back and a hint of black could be seen around the eyes.

“The cub has continued to grow and show us great signs of good health, including lots of loud vocalizations,” said Megan Owen, of the zoo’s animal care staff. “Ultimately, black and white fur will cover this little bear, and the patterns on the fur will be the same as what we see now on the skin.”

Bai Yun and her sixth cub will remain off exhibit for four to five months before appearing in public.

The giant pandas are on loan to the zoo from China, where the cubs are sent after they reach the age of 3.

Giant pandas are a critically endangered species, in part because of deforestation and the expansion of farming. The bamboo-eating member of the bear family has lost much of its forest habitat in the mountainous areas of southwest China to roads and railroads, according to the nonprofit World Wildlife Fund.

Only about 1,600 are believed to exist.

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