Baby panda born at National Zoo; mom cradling cub

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FILE – In this Aug. 23, 2015 file photo, The Smithsonian National Zoo’s Giant Panda Mei Ziang, sleeps in the indoor habitat at the zoo in Washington. Zookeepers at Washington’s National Zoo are on baby watch after concluding that venerable giant panda matriarch Mei Ziang is pregnant and could give birth this week. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Venerable giant panda matriach Mei Xiang gave birth Friday to a baby cub and immediately began cradling her offspring, the National Zoo said.

The zoo said in a release that its panda team heard the baby vocalize.

“Giant pandas are an international symbol of endangered wildlife and hope, and with the birth of this precious cub we are thrilled to offer the world a much-needed moment of pure joy,” said Steve Monfort, director of the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute.

“Because Mei Xiang is of advanced maternal age, we knew the chances of her having a cub were slim. However, we wanted to give her one more opportunity to contribute to her species.”

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Associated Press writer Ashfraf Khalil contributed to this report.

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