The excitement on Friday at the National Zoo as giant panda Mei Xiang became a mama for the third time also brought some sadness 26 hours later. The new mom gave birth to a second baby but this one was stillborn, according to the Washington Post on Aug. 24.
Officials at the zoo were anxiously waiting to see if there would be another cub arriving as pandas are known to have twins quite regularly. As the time frame seemed to be winding down and they thought it wasn’t going to happen, Mei Xiang birthed a second cub. She was said to have picked it up to cradle the baby in her arms. After licking it for 17 minutes, she let the cub go as it fell to the floor not moving or squealing like its twin was. This one was not fully formed and might have never been alive.
A grabbing device was used by National Zoo staffers to seize the lifeless cub. However, their attempts to distract the new mom so that they could grab the healthy one failed. They are anxious to do a quick first checkup on the live cub to measure weight and length, and to provide peace of mind that this baby is healthy. After the checkup, the cub is then returned to its mother.
The grab team didn’t feel that it was safe enough to grab the little one, so after two attempts, they chose to back off and will try again on Sunday.
“There always is a danger when you’re around an animal that weighs 240-some-odd pounds and has a jaw that can break a piece of bamboo,” panda keeper Marty Dearie said. “She is an animal that can cause damage if she needs to.”
It is sad that the second panda cub did not survive, but its twin will hopefully thrive to grow up to be healthy and happy. It certainly is fun to keep a watchful eye on these beautiful creatures.
Stay tuned for more updates on the recent 'panda-monium.'