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Zoo visitors flock to welcome panda cub

ATLANTA - Visitors flocked to welcome the only panda born at a U.S. zoo so far this year and watch mother and child on a live video feed at Zoo Atlanta on Monday.

The tiny, hairless cub - which is the size of a stick of butter - is sequestered with her mom, Lun Lun, in the zoo's birthing den, where they will remain for several months.

The bundle of joy was born Saturday, just a week before the second birthday of Mei Lan, the zoo's first panda cub.

'You can go to every zoo and see elephants, but you can't go to every zoo and see pandas,' said Christy Moonan, whose two children, Mia, 3, and Collin, 5, brought small stuffed panda toys with them to watch the cub on television screens in the zoo's panda habitat.

Zookeepers won't know the sex of the cub for a few weeks until Lun Lun lets them touch her baby, said Megan Wilson, assistant curator of carnivores at the zoo. For now, the proud mom is cradling and nursing her cub just as she did with Mei Lan, Wilson said.

Three other U.S. zoos house pandas, which are endangered: San Diego, Memphis and Washington, D.C.

As Monday's Zoo Atlanta crowd cooed over the pandas, Mei Lan and dad, Yang Yang, napped in separate rooms of the indoor part of the panda habitat. Zoo officials will keep Yang Yang apart from his new cub as they have with Mei Lan, because male pandas in the wild typically don't stay with their offspring.

Zoo officials inseminated Lun Lun with Yang Yang's sperm in April. An ultrasound on Thursday confirmed zookeepers' suspicions that the procedure was a success.

'A lot of people wonder whether this is less exciting for us because it's our second birth,' Wilson said. 'Every giant panda birth is important. We are just as excited about this birth as Mei Lan's.'

Mei Lan's birth was a landmark event for the zoo, drawing in thousands of visitors and generating a huge number of hits on the online panda cam. Weekend attendance figures weren't yet available Monday, but zoo officials said they're expecting them to be higher than normal because of the new arrival.