After examining the giant panda cub that died six days after it was born to mother Mei Xiang (may-SHONG) at the Smithsonian's National Zoo, the Zoo's team of pathologists found that lung and liver damage ultimately caused the death of the panda cub. The poorly developed lungs likely caused the cub to have insufficient oxygen, which would be consistent with the changes in the liver.
The giant panda cub born Sept. 16 was female. At the time of death, she weighed a little less than 100 grams, about four ounces. Also, a small amount of milk was found in the cub's gastrointestinal tract, which suggests that she nursed. The mortality rate for pandas in their first year of age in human care is 26 percent for males and 20 percent for females. Note that some early mortality rates may be underestimated.
The National Zoo, in collaboration with colleagues in China, is working to answer questions about giant pandas that will ensure the best care in captivity and that will help bolster the species' numbers in the wild. Information about how this cub died will add to the scientific body of knowledge about Giant Pandas. The Zoo will continue to work closely with its Chinese colleagues to share the information it has learned about giant panda reproduction and cub health.
The cub's mother, Mei Xiang, has returned almost entirely to her normal behavior. She is spending time in both her indoor and outdoor exhibits and her appetite has returned to normal. No decision has been made about the future of Mei Xiang and the cub's father, Tian Tian (tee-YEN tee-YEN), at the Zoo. The current agreement with China lasts through Dec. 5, 2015, and stipulates that the Zoo will conduct research in the areas of breeding and cub behavior.
The David M. Rubenstein Giant Panda Habitat is now open to visitors during the Zoo's normal hours. The panda cam, sponsored by Ford Motor Company Fund, continues to allow panda enthusiasts around the world to watch Mei Xiang and Tian Tian.