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Giant panda cub born in Atlanta zoo

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ATLANTA, Georgia (CNN) -- Zoo Atlanta announced the birth of a giant panda cub Wednesday. On its official Web site, the zoo said the cub was born to Lun Lun at 4:51p.m. ET.

The zoo announced little else but that the mother and cub appeared to be doing fine. A news conference is scheduled for Wednesday evening.

Keepers will give the cub, which is about the size of a human hand, its first veterinary check-up when it is possible to do so without disrupting maternal care, the zoo said. (Watch Lun Lun with her new cub -- 1:56)

In March, the zoo announced it had used artificial insemination on 8-year old Lun Lun after natural breeding with her male companion, Yang Yang, 9, appeared unlikely.

According to Zoo Atlanta, this is only the fifth giant panda cub birth in the United States since 1990. Only an estimated 1,600 giant pandas live in the wild now. The zoo says another 185 live in captivity.

Zoo Atlanta said it was hopeful a new cub would increase the genetic variability in the captive population, and would allow for more research on giant panda maternal behavior.

It took Zoo Atlanta 12 years to complete the process to bring the pandas from China. They arrived in November of 1999.

The zoo pays China $1 million per panda each year for panda conservation efforts. The money goes to help save and nurture corridors of bamboo -- on which pandas feed -- conduct research on panda behavior, and create environments conducive to breeding.

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Yang Yang, left, and Lun Lun in 1999. Zoo Atlanta announced Lun Lun gave birth Wednesday.

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