Panda cub thriving at Zoo Atlanta

He’s 2.2 pounds, 35 centimeters from nose to tail and squeals when his mommy momentarily lumbers away.

In a few years, he’ll haul almost 300 pounds on a 3-foot frame and, presumably, be more interested in a bamboo stalk than the whereabouts of his mother.

But for now, the 1-month-old panda cub at Zoo Atlanta is behaving exactly as he should.

During a weekly veterinarian checkup on Thursday in the zoo’s Giant Panda building, the baby boy born to Lun Lun on Nov. 3 -- the only giant panda born in the U.S. this year -- placidly rested his head on a blanket while two members of the zoo’s medical staff took his measurements, listened to his heart and lungs and checked his skin color.

“He looks really great,” said Dr. Haley Murphy, directory of veterinary services, after the 10-minute exam. “I can’t believe how fast he’s growing.”

On Nov. 24, the cub weighed in at 1.6 pounds with a length of 33.5 centimeters.

“His abdomen is round and full, and we like that in a baby,” Murphy said.

The puppy-size bear -- who will be named the first week of February, in keeping with Chinese tradition of waiting 100 days after birth -- will nurse from Lun Lun for one-and-a-half to two years and will reach full growth after about five years.

In a few months, he’ll begin nibbling on food. Lun Lun, meanwhile, has gradually returned to her normal eating habits, happily munching on biscuits and sugar cane.

The only time the baby is separated from his mother is during these brief, weekly exams, and adoring fans will have to wait until late February or early March for his public debut.

However, now that feathery strands of fur cover the cub, he can better control his own body temperature rather than relying on Lun Lun to constantly hug him tightly.

“As long as he’s warm and well-fed, he’s like any other infant,” said Murphy. “He’s happy.”