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A video of the new mother and cub, posted by the zoo last week

Awful news coming out of our nation's capital this morning.

The giant panda cub that was born to Mei Xiang almost exactly a week ago, was found dead. This announcement was made on the Zoo's website:

We are brokenhearted to share that we have lost our little giant panda cub. Panda keepers and volunteers heard Mei Xiang make a distress vocalization at 9:17 a.m. and let the veterinarian staff know immediately. They turned off the panda cam and were able to safely retrieve the cub for an evaluation at 10:22 a.m., which we only do in situations of gravest concern. The veterinarians immediately performed CPR and other life-saving measures, but sadly the cub was unresponsive. We’ll have more updates as we learn more, but right now we know is that the cub weighed just under 100 grams and that there was no outward sign of trauma or infection. We’ll share information with you as we learn more.
They do not yet know the cause of the death.

This is such heartbreaking news it's hard to comprehend.

The odds were stacked very high against the little guy from the start. Pandas not only have great difficulting conceiving and carrying to term, but also have very high infant mortality rate. The Washington Post reports on the sad history of panda breeding:

In the 1980s, five giant panda cubs were born to the late panda parents, Ling Ling, a female, and Hsing Hsing, a male, who were given to the United States by China in 1972.

Ling-Ling had her first cub in 1983, but it died of pneumonia three hours later. She had another cub that was stillborn in 1984. In 1987, she had twins, which is not uncommon among giant pandas, experts say.

But one died immediately, and the other died of an infection four days later.

She produced yet another cub in 1989, but it died of pneumonia 23 hours after it was born.

Ling-Ling died in 1992, and Hsing-Hsing in 1999.

This must be a particularly devastating loss to the staff at the zoo and the decidated zoologists that have made it their life's work to protect this very endangered species.

Donations to the Washington, DC Zoo can be made here. Robust finances will in part, support the program that continues the work of preserving the giant panda. World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) is here, and a leading organization working toward persevation of endangered species including giant pandas.


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