Cause of National Zoo panda cub death still unclear

Raquel Erhard – Fourth Estate Cooperative Contributor

Washington, DC, United States (4E) – Veterinarians at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo in Washington said Monday that the newborn giant panda cub was definitely not crushed by its mother but an initial necropsy revealed no obvious cause of death.

The 4-ounce cub, believed to be a female and still unnamed, died six days after its birth.

The necropsy, an autopsy for animals, showed some unusual abdominal fluid and liver abnormalities including discoloration and some hard spots, said Dr. Suzan Murray, the zoo’s chief veterinarian.

She added that the examination showed the cub had nursed but significant analysis would depend on the lab tests and a full necropsy report that will arrive in two weeks.

Mei Xiang, the cub’s mother, is eating and moving toward normal activity. The panda mother held a toy the whole night in place of her baby.

“We’re going to learn from this experience,” said National Zoo Director Dennis Kelly. He added that the panda exhibit remained closed Monday but might reopen soon.

The cub, conceived through artificial insemination, was 14-year-old mother Mei’s second in seven years with 15-year-old Tian Tian, the zoo’s male giant panda.

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