Little Panda’s Death Leaves Zookeepers ‘Devastated’

Sunday’s sad news about the death of a giant panda cub that was just less than a week old is being followed this morning with reports about how the staff at Washington’s National Zoo tried hard to save it and have been hit hard by its death.

The staff, zoo director Dennis Kelly tells The Washington Post, is “devastated.”

“I’m worried about my keepers,” he also tells the Post. “They’ve got 2,000 animals to take care of, and they’ve got to remain safe.”

As the Post and Washington’s WUSA-TV report, the last “honk” heard from the cub came around 8:53 a.m. ET on Sunday. Then, around 9:17 a.m. ET, mother Mei Xiang started making “distress cries.”

Zookeepers shut down the zoo’s much-watched “panda cam” and worked to distract Mei Xiang, so that they could reach in to retrieve the cub. They splashed honey water near her, the Post says, to draw her attention. But it took nearly an hour to get her far enough away from the cub so that a zookeeper could reach in to get it.

Ten minutes of delicately applied CPR failed to revive the cub.

Officials hope to have preliminary results on the cause of death later today, Washington’s WJLA-TV says.

Our colleagues at Washington’s WAMU have a report here. As the station’s Patrick Madden says, “giant panda pregnancies in captivity can be difficult … Mei Xiang had five failed pregnancies before giving birth last week.”

She successfully gave birth, in 2005, to Tai Shan (butter stick).

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