A giant panda on loan to Belgium from China gave birth to a cub in a Belgian zoo on Thursday, a rare event for the endangered species that numbers fewer than 2,000 in the wild.
The mother Hao Hao immediately took the tiny and hairless squealing male cub in her jaws to protect it and clean it, in video footage released by the Pairi Daiza wildlife park outside Brussels.
"Hao Hao's first son is right now in the best of health and weighs 171 grams (six ounces)," the zoo said in a joint statement with the China Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda.
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Announcing the news with "great pleasure," the statement said: "Less than 2,000 pandas can be found in the wild, making every birth a true miracle."
It was the third panda cub born in the world this year and only the third to be born in Europe in the last 20 years. Austria and Spain were the previous venues.
The little panda has yet to be named.
"We are waiting to be sure he is viable and armed for life. The name will be beautiful, and Chinese, but Belgians will be able to pronounce it," the veterinary team said in a statement.
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The zoo warned that the mortality rate for baby pandas in their first year is very high.
China loaned Hao Hao and her mate Xing Hui to Belgium for 15 years in February 2014 to mark Chinese President Xi Jinping's state visit to the kingdom.
They quickly became a main attraction.
Hao Hao was artificially inseminated twice in February with the sperm of Xing Hui.
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