After struggles yesterday with swapping the cubs over both had spent time with their mother, Mei Xiang over the past 24 hours. The smaller cub spent time with its mother from 2pm August 25 until earlier this morning. Unfortunately once keepers swapped it with its larger sibling again they realised it was not gaining weight, appeared week and possibly had a respiratory tract issue.
Keepers and vets sprang into action administering antibiotics and respiratory support along with providing formula and fluids.
Unfortunately panda cubs passing away in their first year is not uncommon. Male cubs do not survive 26% of the time and females 20% of the time. The gender of this cub was unknown.
It’s exact cause of death will be determined though a necropsy (animal autopsy) to be performed by the veterinary and pathology team in the coming days.
This is only the 3rd time a giant panda living in the United States has given birth to twins and only one of those have survived to be adults. Keepers at the Smithsonian National Zoo worked hard using techniques developed by their Chinese colleagues over the past 15 years in an attempt to ensure both cubs surived.
They worked round the clock swapping the cubs every four hours meaning one spent time with Mei Xiang while the other was bottle feed and kept in an incubator.
Currently the larger cub weighs 137.7g and is appearing strong and robust. He is behaving normally along with urinating and defecating as expected. While all appears well the panda team are keeping a close eye on him and remembering that there is no guarantee he will survive.
Photo Credit: Shellie Pick, Smithsonian’s National Zoo