A giant panda has given birth to a male cub at a zoo in Belgium in what has been described as a "true miracle". The birth of the cub, who has not yet been named, marks only the third time a giant panda has been born in captivity in a European country.

Eric Domb, director of the Pairi Daiza wildlife park, announced the birth at a press conference: "It's a boy! Everything went exceptionally well."

The cub weighed 171g and – as with all newborn giant pandas – was hairless and blind. Its mother, Hao Hao, was pictured and filmed carrying him around its enclosure.

In a Facebook post, zoo officials said the cub slept well with his mother and had been accepting milk from zookeepers. Once Hao Hao (a first time mother) has rested, she will take over feeding duties.

The birth was part of a conservation effort to increase the giant panda population. Critically endangered, there are fewer than 2,000 left in the wild. Hao Hao, who is seven, was brought to the zoo in 2014 with a male, Xing Hui.

She was artificially inseminated in February, but the pregnancy was only confirmed a few weeks ago. Pandas are notoriously difficult to breed. Males only have 24 days every year when they are at their reproductive peak, while females only ovulate once per year.

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Baby panda is pictured at the Pairi Daiza wildlife park in Brugelette, BelgiumBenoit Bouchez/ Pairi Daiza/ Reuters
Panda cub
Baby panda in the teeth of its motherBenoit Bouchez/ Pairi Daiza/ Reuters
Panda cub
Baby panda is placed in an incubatorBenoit Bouchez/ Pairi Daiza/ Reuters
Panda cub
Human hand holds the baby pandaBenoit Bouchez/ Pairi Daiza/ Reuters
Panda cub
Adult panda holds its baby in its mouthBenoit Bouchez/ Pairi Daiza/ Reuters