Just six days ago, the National Zoo and animal lovers everywhere were thrilled at the birth of a female giant panda cub to mother Mei Xiang. Yesterday, the cub died.
It’s indicative of the difficulties of captive breeding, particularly for an animal as peculiar and mysterious as the giant panda.
The four ounce cub was found in Mei Xiang’s pen when she started letting out cries of distress. At first, zookeepers thought the cub had been suffocated or crushed by her 200+ pound mother, but a necropsy revealed that was not the case. Instead, researchers found hard spots on the cub’s liver and fluid in her abdomen. Still, zoo workers say there’s still no conclusive cause for the cub’s death.
Mei Xiang cradled her cub-sized toy following the passing of her cub, the same activity she performed leading up to the baby’s birth. Zookeepers say she’s been eating and drinking and are “cautiously optimistic” that she’ll return to her normal life.