(WASHINGTON) — The smaller of Washington’s National Zoo’s newborn panda cubs has died Wednesday, zoo officials confirmed.
“The smaller of the two giant panda cubs born at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo Aug. 22, died shortly after 2 p.m. today, Aug. 26,” the National Zoo released in a statement. “The panda team rotated both cubs in the past 24 hours allowing each to benefit from spending time with their mother, Mei Xiang.
“The smaller cub was with Mei Xiang from about 2 p.m. yesterday, Aug. 25, until this morning. When the panda team swapped the cubs this morning, they assessed the little cub and had concerns because it had not increased in weight, appeared weaker and exhibited possible respiratory issues.”
The Smithsonian’s National Zoo’s giant female panda Mei Xiang gave birth to the first cub this past Saturday at 5:35 pm, and to the second cub just hours later.
“This is a hard loss for us,” zoo director Dennis Kelly said during a press conference. “Going forward we are going to focus our attention on the remaining cub and give it the best care possible.”
Dr. Donald Neiffer, the chief veterinarian of the zoo, said staff noticed that the health of the smaller cub took a turn for the worse following a routine swap from mom to incubator. He added that the team would routinely switch out the cubs from the mother’s care, allowing one to nurse with Mei Xiang, while the other is fed and nurtured by zoo staff.
Neiffer said the larger cub is doing well and is in its mother’s care.
Zoo officials said pathologists will perform a necropsy on the 4-day-old cub within the next few weeks.
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