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Panda cub opens eyes and ear

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SAN DIEGO (CNS) - The eyes and ears of the 9-week-old giant panda at the San Diego Zoo are fully open now, veterinarians said Thursday after the cub's weekly examination.

The unnamed male shows an increased behavioral response to his environment, making it appear that his vision and hearing are developing normally, according to the zoo. It takes about three weeks for a giant panda cub to fully open its eyes and ears.

The zoo's animal staff said his mother, Bai Yun, will probably help the cub develop his senses by cleaning and licking him, moving him around the den and taking him into the other areas in her suite of rooms at the Giant Panda Research Station.

"As the cub gets stronger and bigger, Bai Yun's way of handling the cub will change," said Megan Owen, conservation program manager at the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research. "Because everything Bai Yun does (as a mother) has been perfect, we can say that this is probably the best possible way for a panda mother to handle a cub of this age."

The cub's growth -- he now weighs 6.6 pounds -- is comparable to Bai Yun's previous offspring, according to his handlers.

The cub remains off exhibit for now, but he can be viewed on the zoo's Panda-Cam at sandiegozoo.org/pandacam. His name will be announced 100 days after birth, as dictated by Chinese tradition.

Conservation groups list the giant panda as endangered, and the zoo estimates that only about 1,600 are left in the wild.

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