WASHINGTON – A panda at Washington’s National Zoo that has been tending to her squealing newborn cub also gave birth to a stillborn cub Saturday that wasn’t fully formed and was never alive outside the womb, a zoo official said.
Mei Xiang gave birth to the motionless cub Saturday night after giving birth to its live twin the night before, zoo spokeswoman Pamela Baker-Masson said. The mother groomed her stillborn cub for 17 minutes before letting it fall to the floor, she said.
Mei Xiang still hasn’t let zoo staffers get close enough to get a good look at her live cub, but it was squealing throughout and appears to be doing well, Baker-Masson said.
The zoo began performing a necropsy on the stillborn cub late Saturday that they hope will tell them why the cub stopped developing and died in-utero, she said.
When caretakers do get to check out the live cub, which is the size of a stick of butter, they will try to listen to its heart and lungs, record its weight and collect a DNA sample.
Brandie Smith, the zoo’s curator of mammals, said she and others are “cautiously optimistic” about that cub’s health.
The live cub was the 15-year-old panda’s third. Mei Xiang gave birth to a cub last year that died after just six days. Its lungs hadn’t fully developed and likely weren’t sending enough oxygen to its liver. Mei Xiang’s first cub, a male named Tai Shan, was born in 2005.