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New San Diego-born panda is a boy
( 2003-09-11 15:37) (Agencies)

The San Diego zoo's newest panda is a boy.

A zoo veterinarian got the first chance to handle the three-week-old cub Wednesday when its mother, Bai Yun, left the birthing den for a few minutes.

The as-yet unnamed cub weighed 19 ounces (539 grams) and measured 10 inches (25 centimeters) from nose to tail.

``The cub is doing exceptionally well,'' said Meg Sutherland-Smith, the San Diego Zoo's senior veterinarian who handled the newborn panda.

Under its panda loan agreement with the zoo, China retains possession of any offspring and will make the decision on the cub's name. Traditionally, the cub will not be named until it is 100 days old, a zoo spokesman said.

The cub is the second born to Bai Yun at the zoo.

Hua Mei, a female, was born in 1999 and is the first US-born panda to survive into adolescence. She will be sent to China at the end of the month to enter into a breeding program as part of the loan agreement.

Genetic testing will be done to determine which of two pandas is the father.

Bai Yun mated once in late March with Gao Gao, who arrived earlier this year from China's Wolong Nature Reserve. Around the same time, she was artificially inseminated with semen from Shi Shi, an elderly male who recently returned to China.

Only about 1,000 of the highly endangered animals are thought to live in the wild in western and central China. The only other North American zoos with pandas are Zoo Atlanta, the Memphis Zoo, the Smithsonian National Zoo in Washington and the Chapultepec Zoo in Mexico City.

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