Panda Cub's Twin Was Stillborn
August 26, 2013

Panda Cub In Good Health As Mother Gives Birth To Stillborn Sibling

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

While a giant panda cub born Friday afternoon at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo in Washington was said to be in good health following a 10-minute physical exam Sunday morning, zoo officials have revealed that its mother had also given birth to a second, stillborn cub over the weekend.

According to Michael E. Ruane of the Washington Post, the second cub was born on Saturday evening. While stillbirths in giant pandas are said to be extremely rare, the cub was born with severe abnormalities around its head and was missing its brain, Ruane said.

Zoo officials said that results from its necropsy would not be available for several days.

The original cub, which was born on Friday afternoon, was given a clean bill of health following a 10-minute physical examination by zookeepers on Sunday morning, the Associated Press (AP) said.

Officials told the AP’s Ben Nuckols that the panda is pink with white fur, weighs 4.8 pounds, and “wriggled and squealed loudly” when it was taken away from its mother for evaluation. Furthermore, they said that it appeared to be digesting its food properly, its lungs seemed to be functioning normally, and it had a steady heartbeat.

The cub’s mother, Mei Xiang, gave birth to her only surviving offspring – a male named Tai Shan – in 2005, according to the wire service. She gave birth to a cub last year after several years of failed breeding, but it died after just six days as a result of underdeveloped lungs that were likely not providing its liver with adequate oxygen.

“Veterinarians will try to examine the cub again Tuesday. Its eyes have yet to open, and its gender will not be known for two to three weeks,” Nuckols said, adding that a DNA sample was collected to determine the cub’s paternity. Mei Xiang had been artificially inseminated with sperm from two male pandas: Tian Tian from the National Zoo, and Gao Gao at the San Diego Zoo.

Giant pandas are one of the most endangered species on the planet, according to Reuters reporter Alex Dobuzinskis. Only about 1,600 of the creatures, which naturally reside in a handful of mountain ranges located in central China, are believed to be living in the wild. Another 300 or so are currently being raised in captivity, mostly in China, Reuters added.