WASHINGTON (AP) — A giant panda cub born last weekend at the National Zoo in Washington has died.
Zoo officials say the cub was found dead Sunday morning after panda keepers heard sounds of distress from its mother, Mei Xiang.
Staffers were able to retrieve the cub about an hour later. The cause of death is unknown. The cub appeared to be in good condition, and there were no outward signs of trauma or infection.
Zoo director Dennis Kelly calls the cub's death "devastating" for the entire staff. He says: "It's hard to describe how much passion and energy and care has gone into this."
The cub had been a surprise at the zoo. Fourteen-year-old Mei Xiang had five failed pregnancies before giving birth.
Panda cubs are born about the size of a stick of butter and are delicate infants. They're at risk for infections and so small that it's not unheard of for panda moms to accidentally crush their young.
166-v-28-(Shirley Smith, AP correspondent)--A giant panda cub born last weekend at the National Zoo in Washington has died. AP correspondent Shirley Smith reports. ((watch for dating)) (23 Sep 2012)
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168-c-10-(Shirley Smith, AP correspondent)-"December the 24th"-AP correspondent Shirley Smith reports the panda cub was born last weekend at the National Zoo in Washington, a surprise to staffers, after the mother had had five previous failed pregnancies. (23 Sep 2012)
<<CUT *168 (09/23/12)>> 00:10 "December the 24th"
167-c-20-(Shirley Smith, AP correspondent)-"attempting to nurse"-AP correspondent Shirley Smith reports panda cubs are very tiny and delicate. (23 Sep 2012)
<<CUT *167 (09/23/12)>> 00:20 "attempting to nurse"
GRAPHICSBANK: Giant panda Mei Xiang, National Zoo, Washington DC, lettering PANDA CUB DEATH, finished graphic (23 Sep 2012)
APPHOTO WX110: FILE - In this Dec. 19, 2011 file photo shows Mei Xiang, the female giant panda at the Smithsonian's National Zoo in Washington. The panda cub born to Mei Xiang on Sept. 16, 2012, after five consecutive pseudo pregnancies over the years, died Sept. 23, 2012. Panda keepers and volunteers heard a distress vocalization from Mei Xiang, at 9:17 a.m. and notified the veterinarian staff immediately, according to a statement by the National Zoo. Veterinarians immediately performed CPR and other life-saving measures but the cub did not respond. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh/File) (19 Dec 2011)
<<APPHOTO WX110 (12/19/11)>>