National Zoo Panda Cub Has Died

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Sept. 23 2012 12:25 PM

National Zoo Panda Cub Has Died

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Giant Panda Tian Tian enjoys a fruitcicle January 20, 2011 at the Smithsonian Institution's National Zoo in Washington, DC

Photo by Karen Bleier/AFP/Getty Images.

Sad news from the adorable baby animals beat: the giant panda cub born at the National Zoo in Washington a week ago has died. 

The cause of death isn't yet known. NBC Washington has a statement up from the National Zoo with more information:

"Panda keepers and volunteers heard a distress vocalization from the mother, Mei Xiang, at 9:17 a.m. and notified the veterinarian staff immediately...the panda cam was turned off and the staff were able to safely retrieve the cub for an evaluation at 10:22 a.m. Veterinarians immediately performed CPR and other life-saving measures but the cub did not respond." The cub had no outward signs of trauma or infection."
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The death, while sad, is not entirely unexpected, however, as this U.S. News and World Report article explains:

"Many giant pandas born in captivity die before reaching adulthood. Just a handful of pandas born in the United States have survived, and of the six (now seven) pandas born at the National Zoo, just one, Tai Shan, has survived. Earlier this year, the first giant panda born in captivity in Japan in more than 24 years died of pneumonia just a week after it was born."

Panda cubs, they explain, are about the "size of a stick of butter" when born, which leaves them extremely vulnerable to a number of perils. The zoo is expected to hold a press conference with more information on the cub's death later this afternoon [UPDATE Sunday, September 23, 1:50 p.m.: The National Zoo's chief veterinarian announced at a press conference on Sunday that a necropsy on the cub should be completed by Monday, NBC Washington reports].

Abby Ohlheiser is a Slate contributor.

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