Cute overloads are typically the stuff of Reddit subthreads, but on Monday, the National Zoo Panda Cam suffered this fate when their servers crashed shortly after the birth of a giant panda cub.
After five years of false or failed pregnancies, scientists at the Smithsonian National Zoological Park in Washington, D.C., were highly skeptical that their female giant panda, a 14-year-old named Mei Xiang, would be able to successfully carry another cub to term. But they were in for pleasant surprise on Sunday, when Xiang gave birth to a panda cub, yet unnamed.
The cub, who has yet to be seen in person by members of the panda team (or even had its gender determined) was the product of an artificial insemination and is the second cub for Xiang. Prior to giving birth, Mei Xiang was predicted to have only a 10 percent chance of getting pregnant. In keeping with Chinese tradition, the cub will be named after 100 days.
Scientists at the zoo received the tip-off about Mei Xiang after monitoring her on the zoo's 24-hour panda cam, and observing squealing noises. To the delight of many followers, late Sunday night under the Twitter hashtag "cubwatch," the zoo tweeted, "As panda cam watchers may have noticed: from Mei's behavior and the sounds we're hearing, we have a giant panda cub!"
Unfortunately for panda fans around the globe, the excitement over the new addition proved too much for the panda cam's servers to handle. Throughout most of Monday, many viewers who tuned into the live video feed were greeted with a disclaimer announcing that due to heavy traffic they might be unable to access the panda cam, and to try back again later.
Devin Murphy, a spokeswoman for the National Zoo, said the cam was overwhelmed "because there are so many people trying to look at them."
Fortunately, this will hopefully be the last time for such an occurrence. According to The Washington Post, on Sept. 5, the Ford Foundation announced it would donate $400,000 to the zoo over two years for studying giant panda health and upgrading the camera system.
"The upgrade to our panda cams will make a significant difference for the millions of people that watch and learn about Mei and Tian remotely," said Dennis Kelly, the director of the National Zoo, in a press release. Part of the donation will go toward upgrading the current 48-camera webcam system with a "network-based system."
"The new system will continuously record the pandas, allowing behavior research to continue even while researchers are not physically at the David M. Rubenstein Family Giant Panda Habitat, and enable virtual zoo visitors to watch live video of Mei Xiang and Tian Tian on any Web streaming device," said the zoo in their release. "The new system for the giant panda webcams will pave the way for all of the zoo's animal cameras to be converted to a digital platform."
In 2005, Xiang gave birth to her first cub, Tai Shan, a male panda who was subsequently sent to a breeding facility in China under the panda loan agreement between the Smithsonian and the Chinese government. If all goes well for the Xiang's newest cub, he or she will also be sent to China in a few years.
Check out the video below to see the panda cub being born.