The National Zoo won’t release pictures of the panda cub that died this morning, but according to chief veterinarian Suzan Kelly, the panda looked healthy.
“The cub looked just fabulous,” Murray said at a press conference this afternoon with Dennis Kelly, the zoo’s director. Murray and Kelly kept returning to two themes: how beautiful the panda seemed, and how terrible its death was.
“The loss is—-there’s no other word it—-just devastating at this time,” Kelly said. The six-day-old panda, whose gender won’t be known until an autopsy is performed and was once again about the size of a butterstick, won’t receive a name.
The baby panda made its last noise at 8:53 this morning, according to Murray. Panda mother Mei Xiang got off the cub and honked around 9:17 a.m., prompting staff to start distracting her so they could get at the cub. CPR proved ineffective, and the cub was pronounced dead at 10:28 a.m. The results of a preliminary investigation into the cause of death could be available as soon as tomorrow.
According to Kelly, the zoo’s Chinese partners expressed “great sadness” when they heard the news. Mei Xiang has been resting since the cub’s death, while father Tian Tian has been eating in his enclosure, according to the zoo. Kelly didn’t know when Mei Xiang’s panda exhibit would reopen.
Since pandas can only get pregnant once a year, it will be at least 2013 before Mei Xiang can be impregnated again. Kelly said no plans have been made yet for another attempt to fertilize the panda.
“This species is so endangered that every panda cub is important,” Kelly said.
Photo by Flickr user himnosaar used under a Creative Commons license.