Malaysia's second panda baby turns 1
Updated 20:41, 17-Jan-2019
By Rian Maelzer
The row of tourists pressed against the railings and looking down on the panda enclosure seemed unusually dedicated. They stayed in position, cameras snapping, phones recording video, for a good half an hour before the zookeepers brought out the birthday cake.
And as Malaysia's newest baby panda circled and pawed and clambered over the cake, they remained rooted to spot with the anxious professional camera people and photographers forced to shoot over the top of them.
One of the zoo staff informed me that these were no ordinary tourists. They are panda fanatics who traveled from Japan, Taiwan, Singapore, Thailand to be there for the cub's first birthday celebration.
The second panda cub was a rare winter birth. /CGTN Photo

The second panda cub was a rare winter birth. /CGTN Photo

Thai Sanyaluk Pramanpol, sporting backpack and t-shirt adorned with pandas, has seen the beloved black and white bears several times in Malaysia and many other places: "Many cities in China, the USA, Singapore, Japan, yes, just only in Europe I didn't go yet."
This panda baby, which is yet to get a name, is the second born in Malaysia to the extraordinarily fertile pair of Xing Xing and Liang Liang. They set a record for the fastest successful birth from natural conception in captivity, with the arrival of their first cub Nuan Nuan. 
At around age 2, mothers will shun their young, so the zookeepers gradually separated mother and cub in preparation for Nuan Nuan heading to her ancestral home in China. 
Panda mum is patient with the cub's antics. /CGTN Photo

Panda mum is patient with the cub's antics. /CGTN Photo

And no sooner had the two been separated then Liang Liang again showed signs of becoming fertile, and on October 18, 2017, she successfully mated with Xing Xing once again. It was another record, this time for a second successful birth within four years of a panda couple being paired. But that wasn't all that was unusual.
"It never happened before in the panda world that a panda gave birth out of season in January," says Dr. Mat Naim Ramli of Zoo Negara Malaysia. "This is the first time in the world. Normally it is in July or August."
Dr. Naim gave an encouraging update on the newest panda making its home in the custom-built air conditioned enclosure.
Mother Liang Liang with her second cub. /CGTN Photo

Mother Liang Liang with her second cub. /CGTN Photo

"The growth is fantastic, very good. Compared to Nuan Nuan it's more or less the same weight. In terms of health, it's fantastic, in good shape."
He says that this cub is generally more shy than her older sibling – slower to explore her surroundings and more likely to nap than indulge in horseplay. But the visitors and media on Monday were in luck. She was in an active and playful mood, swinging from branches, wrestling with her doting mother, sliding across a big smooth block of ice…doing everything except showing much interest in her carrot-studded birthday cake, despite the coaxing and gentle nudges of her handlers.
Dr. Naim explained that the cub is still very much reliant on her mother's milk and takes in little of other forms of food at this stage. 
But it mattered little to those gathered, and eagerly snapping and recording the panda baby's antics. 
Father Xing Xing must be kept entirely separate from the mother and the cub. /CGTN Photo

Father Xing Xing must be kept entirely separate from the mother and the cub. /CGTN Photo

"They're amazing. It's the first time I've seen pandas. And it's so cute, the little one," said Norwegian tourist Marianne Nauff Peterson.
The multi-national group of panda aficionados decked out in the panda-adorned apparel might be no neophytes…but were clearly just as enraptured with the cub, cooing at its cuteness and gasping as it came close to tumbling from its perches. 
Visitors to the zoo should get to enjoy watching the cub's progress for another year before it too will have to head to China…and with luck help propagate the panda species – as her parents have been so adept at doing.
(Top image: The cub with an icy cake /CGTN Photo)