Panda Cub Death Mourned at Smithsonian Zoo
A baby panda cub was recently born to panda mother Mei Xiang at the Smithsonian National Zoo.
At first the cub appeared healthy, but a week later, vets heard a distress call coming from the cub. They discovered the cub was not breathing and had no heartbeat. Life-saving measures were unsuccessful and the baby cub soon passed away.
[Dennis W. Kelly, Director of the National Zoo]:
"It is great sadness amongst our staff, and that is to be expected. Every loss is hard (but) this one is specially devastating."
There were no initial signs of trauma or infection. An autopsy was performed, but the cause of death is still unclear.
[Dr. Susan Murray, Chief Veterinarian of the National Zoo]:
"One other abnormality is that the liver by palpation, by touching - felt a little bit hard in places, and this, also it appeared abnormal. The color was not uniform - this can suggest that there was a liver component to the death, but we won't know until we get the slides back, and our pathologists are able to examine that histologically."
The zoo did learn from the test that the cub was female, and weighed less than three-and-a-half ounces. The lungs and heart were in good condition, dismissing the theory that the cub was crushed by the mother.
The panda vets began monitoring Mei Xiang’s health after her cubs’ death. So far she appears to be healthy.
The panda exhibit remains closed, but will reopen soon, according to officials. The Panda cam remains on so people can watch the pandas online.
If all goes well, investigations into the cubs’ death are expected to conclude in two weeks.