Pet Scoop: “Vibrant, Healthy” Panda Cub Born in D.C., Owners Crack Down on Klepto Cat

August 26, 2013: We've scoured the Web to find the best and most compelling animal stories, videos and photos. And it's all right here.

National Zoo
The tiny cub was a healthy pink color at its first exam.

Panda Cub Gets First Exam

The “robust” cub weighed in at 4.8 ounces, and had loud squeals and a full belly when the panda team at the National Zoo managed to pry it from its mom’s arms for a quick exam on Sunday. Mei Xiang, 15, gave birth to the palm-sized baby bear on Friday night. Mei had shown signs that she was pregnant, but veterinarians weren’t able to detect the baby on an ultrasound and weren’t sure whether she was experiencing a false pregnancy. She gave birth to a second, stillborn cub on Saturday night. Zoo officials watching on a panda cam didn’t see that birth, and panicked when they saw a cub that wasn’t moving, describing it as “five minutes of pure terror.” But when they heard the vocalizations of the first cub, who Mei was holding under her arm, they realized what had happened. “I have nothing but joy that we have one cub that is very healthy and doing well,” said senior curator Brandie Smith. Mei was inseminated in March with semen from both her partner, Tian Tian, and the San Diego Zoo’s panda, Gao Gao. A DNA test will be performed to determine the cub’s paternity. — Read it at the Washington Post

Endangered Species to Be Released at Australian “Halfway House”

Four Tasmanian devils, 40 Leadbeater's possums and 40 helmeted honeyeaters will be released into a contained reserve in Australia as a preliminary step to see how they fare in a new environment. The goal is to eventually release the endangered species into the wild. Tasmanian devils are endangered due to an infectious cancer, and scientists are hopeful that if cancer-free devils can be successfully reintroduced in Australia, it could help their chances of survival. — Read it at Live Science

Humans May Influence Animals’ Brains

A new study from researchers at the University of Minnesota finds that environmental changes caused by humans over the last century may be responsible for a jump in brain growth among mice and other small mammals. “Small mammals with high fecundity (such as deer mice and meadow voles) show the most pronounced differences in cranial capacity between urban and rural environments, having larger cranial capacity in urban environments,” said lead author Emilie Snell-Rood. The white-footed mouse and meadow vole showed some of the most dramatic brain growth increases, with the brains of urban and suburban individuals measuring approximately 6 percent bigger than their rural counterparts. The study was published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B. — Read it at Discovery News

Jeffrey has helped Sandy Hook student Emma Wishneski through some difficult times.

Newtown Girl Bonds With Dog

Sandy Hook Elementary School student Emma Wishneski, 9, wasn’t at school the morning of the tragic December shooting that killed 20 students and six staff members, but she’s still suffered from a traumatic experience. And her special bond with Jeffrey has helped her through it. The 73-pound Pit Bull was nearly put down in a New York shelter before he was rescued by Michele Houston, a Connecticut hospice worker. Houston soon discovered that the dog was a natural with people, and he easily got his therapy dog certification. He met Emma at a holiday party, just weeks after the shooting, and they immediately hit it off. “When she's with Jeffrey she doesn't stop smiling,” says her mom. Jeffrey feels the same way. “'Emma’ is a special word in our house,” says Houston. Emma will be heading back to school with a miniature stuffed animal version of Jeffrey. — Watch it at Today

Cat Burglar Steals From Neighbors

Norris seems innocent enough during the day. But by night, this kitty becomes a klepto. The 2-year-old U.K. tabby is making a name for himself by snagging anything he can get his paws on from his neighbors’ houses, and proudly bringing it home to his owners. Norris’ loot includes bath mats, cleaning supplies, pizza and clothing. “He brings his stolen items in and then meows and meows to announce he is back so we will go and see what he has brought in,” said his owner Richard Windsor. But now, Richard and his wife Sophie are cracking down on Norris' bad habit.The couple sent a letter to their neighbors apologizing and telling them to let them know if something goes missing. “Fortunately all our neighbors have been very good natured about it and think it is funny. At least now they know where to come if something disappears mysteriously,” he said. — Read it at Time

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