WASHINGTON >> Washington’s National Zoo said one of its two newborn panda cubs died Wednesday after three and a half days.
The zoo’s adult female panda Mei Xiang gave birth to the first cub Saturday at 5:35 p.m. and a second cub about five hours later. If both cubs had survived, they would have been the 17-year-old panda’s third and fourth surviving offspring. The zoo said the remaining cub, the larger of the two, appears to be strong, robust and behaving normally. The surviving cub remains with its mother.
This isn’t the first time that Mei Xiang has lost a cub. A second, stillborn cub was also born in 2013. And in 2012, Mei Xiang gave birth to a cub that died after just six days. Its lungs hadn’t fully developed.
Mei Xiang does have two other surviving cubs. The first, Tai Shan, was born in 2005. Her second cub, Bao Bao, turned 2 years old on Sunday.
The National Zoo is one of only four zoos nationwide to have pandas, which are on loan from China. But the Washington pandas have a history that makes them closely watched.
The zoo’s first pair of pandas, Ling-Ling and Hsing-Hsing, were a gift from China following President Richard Nixon’s historic 1972 visit to the country. The pair had five cubs while living at the zoo but none survived.
The zoo’s current pandas, Mei Xiang and Tian Tian, the parents of both Bao Bao and Tai Shan, arrived in 2000. Thepandas belong to China as do any cubs they have. The pair’s first cub, Tai Shan, returned to China in 2010. Their second cub, Bao Bao, still lives at the National Zoo.
The latest birth meant that for the first time the zoo briefly had five pandas: Bao Bao, Mei Xiang, the twin cubs and Tian Tian.