Washington's 'panda cam' back on after shutdown

PUBLISHED : Friday, 18 October, 2013, 9:21pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 19 October, 2013, 2:56am

The pictures flickered briefly at 9.59am, the images showing two furry black-and-white blobs snoozing, as usual. Four minutes later, the feeds from the giant panda compound at the US National Zoo stopped.

For about 30 minutes on Thursday, the two panda cams were dark. Zoo officials said it was just a communications problem.

Anguished moments ticked by as hundreds of people waited.

Then, at 10.36am, the video resumed, showing the zoo's celebrated and unnamed eight-week-old cub in fine fettle - fat and round, and looking like a gift-shop souvenir.

Of all the resumptions on Thursday in rebooted Washington, that of the panda cams - which show a live feed of Mei Xiang and her cub - was perhaps the most eagerly awaited.

Within 10 minutes, the cameras were rushed by the panda-starved masses, the zoo said, and connections were being intermittently rejected.

From then on, repetitive mouse-clicking was required to grab one of the 850 viewing slots each camera can handle at a time, and then only for 15 minutes of oohing and aahing.

The zoo said there were 100 people on its website's panda-cam page at 7am, waiting for the feeds to resume, and 400 waiting shortly after 9am.

Later in the day, the zoo tweeted that due to the crush, "viewers may experience some difficulty streaming the cams".

The female cub, born on August 23, had last been seen on camera as the zoo went into hibernation, along with rest of federal Washington, two weeks ago.

Just over a month old, she then resembled a large rodent, weighing about 1.5kg and with faint black-and-white markings.

On Thursday, the cameras and a series of colour photos and video, released by the zoo, showed a robust 2.3kg cub - a miniature copy of her mother - with her eyes and ears open, the zoo said, and what looks like a perpetual grin on her face.

Outside the zoo, the government may have been closed, but, inside, life went on.

"Some animals do change dramatically," zoo spokeswoman Pamela Baker-Masson said.

"When I think back to the panda cub, who was so tiny and pink, with just a minimal amount of hair" two weeks ago, she said. "And look at her today. Her eyes are open. She's so healthy and beautiful."