Liang Liang, a female panda on loan from China, has given birth to a cub in Malaysia's national zoo, Zoo Negara in Kuala Lumpur on 18 August at 1.45pm local time.
Giant Panda Conservation Centre zoology and veterinary director Dr Mat Naim Ramli, in confirming the birth, said: "Liang Liang is very motherly and she is very protective of her cub."
However, zoo officials managed to separate the cub and the mother for four minutes to "quickly weigh, measure the height and determine the sex," Dr Mat Naim said.
"We are confident Liang Liang will make a good mother and can take care of the cub as she has given birth previously. She raised the first baby on her own and we hope she does the same. We feel there are better chances of survival with her taking care of the cub."
Both mother and the cub will be under quarantine for two months before the public will be allowed to view them. Once Liang Liang is ready to leave her cub alone, it will be placed in a nursery room for public viewing.
Although zoo officials suspected Liang LIang was pregnant on 7 August due to her high progesterone level, they were unable to take a second blood test to confirm this. The birth, he said was unexpected as they thought it was a pseudo pregnancy.
He said Malaysia has set a world record by having the first pair of pandas to naturally reproduce within a short period of time while in captivity, outside of China.
"This is definitely a big impact on the research done by China. We are even considering keeping Xing Xing's sperm in a sperm bank," he told reporters.
He said it normally took eight to nine years for pandas in captivity to reproduce, but even then, this was usually done through artificial insemination.
Nine-year-old Liang Liang and Xing Xing from Chengdu, China were loaned to Malaysia following the Giant Panda International Conservation Cooperation Agreement Programme and arrived in Malaysia on 21 May last year, a month later than expected following the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 on 8 March 2014, says Discovery News.
It said that there was controversy in Malaysia over the a decision to house the pandas in a special $7.7m facility at the national zoo with environmentalists arguing that the money could have been better spent on conservation efforts for threatened local wildlife instead.
The agreement, The Star says, which was signed in 2012, allows Malaysia to conduct panda-related conservation research, besides developing local expertise on pandas over a 10 year period.
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said on his Chinese Facebook page that Zoo Negara will take good care of the cub. "We will ensure the family of three are happy and remains in our country in good health," he said.
Dr Mat Naim said the cub will remain in Malaysia for two years before being sent back to China.
The social media in Malaysia has been abuzz with the news, with many suggesting names for the newborn with 'Merdeka' as the most widely suggested name.
A Facebook user Vijyah Balakrishnan suggested Merdeka (Independence in English), as the cub was born in August. Malaysia gained its independence from Britain on 31 August 1957.