Sep 23, 2012 / 8:38 pm
The giant panda cub born a week ago at the National Zoo in Washington died Sunday morning, saddening zoo officials and visitors who had heralded its unexpected arrival.
The 4-ounce (113-gram) cub, about the size of a stick of butter, showed no obvious signs of distress and made its final recorded noise shortly before 9 a.m. Sunday, zoo officials said at a news conference.
The cub's mother, Mei Xiang, then made an unusual honking sound at 9:17 a.m. that her keepers interpreted as a distress call, and she moved away from where she had been nesting with the cub. About an hour later, one keeper distracted her with honey water while another used an instrument similar to a lacrosse stick to pick up the cub.
The cub, whose gender could not be determined externally, was not breathing and its heart had stopped. A veterinarian attempted CPR before it was pronounced dead at 10:28 a.m.
"This is devastating for all of us here," National Zoo director Dennis Kelly said at a news conference. "It's hard to describe how much passion and energy and thought and care has gone into this."
Four American zoos have pandas, but Washington's pandas are treated like royalty. The zoo was given its first set of pandas in 1972 as a gift from China to commemorate President Richard Nixon's historic visit to the country.
Mei Xiang's first cub, Tai Shan, born in 2005, enjoyed enormous popularity before he was returned to China in 2010.
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