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Adorable new panda cub's twin, alas -- is stillborn

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
August 26th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

A giant panda gave birth to a healthy cub at the Smithsonian National Zoo in Washington last week. Jubilation turned to sadness as the cub's twin, born afterwards. The devastated panda mom groomed the lifeless cub before finally letting it fall to the floor after 17 minutes.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The zoo's 15-year-old female giant panda, Mei Xiang gave birth to a healthy pink panda cub last week. Zookeepers eagerly awaited the possible birth of a twin. Sadly, the twin was born motionless and subsequent examinations showed it suffered abnormalities and died in-utero.

"There is a chance, a 50 per cent chance, that another panda will be born, a twin," Dennis Kelly, the National Zoo's director originally said.

They had all but given up hope of a second cub when Mei Xiang gave birth to the motionless panda.

The stillborn cub had abnormalities and "had never been alive," zoo spokeswoman Pamela Baker-Masson said in a statement. "It lay motionless and made no sound. Throughout, staff could see it visually and hear the first cub squealing, and Mei never set it down."

Zookeepers after removing the lifeless cub saw that the cub suffered abnormalities.

The zoo began performing a necropsy on the stillborn cub afterwards. They hope their findings will tell them why the cub stopped developing and died in utero.

Mei Xiang had been on a 24-hour pregnancy watch since her behavior became increasingly maternal and she began cradling her toys, licking her body and "nesting." The protective mother only allowed zoo staff close enough to examine the first healthy cub this morning.

The surviving cub's first neonatal exam proved it is "robust, fully formed, and is a bright, healthy shade of pink," tweeted the zoo. The zoo's account notes that it weighs 137 grams, which is about 4.8 ounces and that its heart rate is steady.

"All signs are that we have a very healthy, active, vibrant cub," the zoo's account tweeted.

Mei Shang had been artificially inseminated with sperm from both the Smithsonian Zoo's Tian Tian and Gao Gao, a male giant panda from the San Diego Zoo. The cub's paternity and sex won't be known until results come in a couple of weeks.

The tiny cub was the third pregnancy for Mei Shang, who tragically lost another cub six days after giving birth last year. Its lungs hadn't fully developed and likely weren't sending enough oxygen to its liver.

She gave birth to a healthy cub, a male called Tai Shan, in 2005.

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