Giant panda cub born at National Zoo in Washington

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A giant panda cub was born early on Saturday at the National Zoo, the first for the endangered bears now living there, the zoo said.

Mother and cub are doing well, but the first few hours after birth are crucial, said spokeswoman Peper Long.

"We're really excited and watching very carefully," she told local television. The sex of the cub could not be immediately determined.

The mother bear, Mei Xiang, was artificially inseminated on March 11 with semen from Tian Tian, the male panda that shares her habitat.

Any baby panda born at the zoo would belong to its parents' native China and would be sent there after it was weaned in one or two years, according to the zoo, part of the Smithsonian Institution.

The giant panda is one of the most critically endangered species in the world, with about 1,600 left in the wild, the zoo says.

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