Panda cub dies from unknown causes

We are sad to share the news that the panda cub Smithsonian’s National Zoo died Sunday, Sept. 23. Staff still do not know what caused the death, but share what they do know so far in their latest update:

“We’re still reeling from the loss of our giant panda cub, and we feel like the whole world is mourning with us. Our staff is anguished, which is to be expected. Every loss is hard but this one is especially devastating. Thank you so much for your outpouring of support. Your support and understanding of our work helps tremendously when we have to get through tough times like this.

We still don’t know definitively what caused us to lose the giant panda cub yesterday, but we do have some more information since yesterday, especially from the necropsy (animal autopsy).

The giant panda cub appeared to be a female. She weighed a little less than 100 grams, which is about four ounces. There were no signs of trauma, external or internal, which means that she was not crushed—confirmation that Mei is a good mother. Her heart and lungs also looked good, which tells us that she did not suffocate. There was a little milk in the cub’s gastrointestinal tract, which tells us that she did successfully nurse. The only abnormalities the veterinarians have detected so far were some fluid in her abdomen and a slightly abnormal liver. They don’t know yet whether either of those things is significant, and they’re still investigating.The panda team continues to monitor Mei Xiang, and will until she returns to her normal behavior. She appeared to sleep well last night. Watchers did notice her cradling an object, as she did before to the birth of the cub. We believe this is an expression of her natural mothering instinct.
Check the Zoo’s website for continuing updates.
UPDATE October 11: Necropsy results indicate that immature lungs and liver damage caused the cub’s death. Read more here.

Posted: 24 September 2012
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