Panda cub had liver abnormalities, abdominal fluid
WASHINGTON – The 6-day-old giant panda cub that died at the National Zoo had liver abnormalities and fluid in its abdomen, but zoo officials said Monday that they don’t yet know the cause of death.
The cub, believed to be female, died Sunday morning, less than a week after its birth surprised and delighted zoo officials and visitors. The zoo had all but given up on the panda mother’s chances of conceiving.
A necropsy on the cub will be completed within two weeks, and officials expect to have a definitive answer on the cause of death. Panda cubs are about the size of a stick of butter at birth and are susceptible to infections and fatal injuries.
There was no evidence of fluid in the cub’s lungs, which would suggest pneumonia, and the cub was not accidentally crushed by its mother. Pandas’ mortality rate in the wild is unknown, but only a few thousand giant pandas are believed to remain in the wild. Only a few hundred are in captivity.
The fluid in the cub’s abdomen was unusual and could have been a symptom of the liver problem, said Suzan Murray, the zoo’s chief veterinarian. The liver, about the size of a kidney bean, was harder than usual and discolored, she said.
The cub’s mother, 14-year-old Mei Xiang, has come out of her den and started eating again and interacting with her keepers, Murray said. The panda slept well Sunday night and has been cradling a plastic toy.
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