Panda Cub Died Of Insufficient Oxygen To Liver, Says National Zoo

The giant panda cub that died at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo in Washington in September is found to have passed away due to a lack of oxygen.

The newborn panda cub’s underdeveloped lungs resulted in insufficient oxygen being delivered to the liver, causing it to pass away just six days after its being born, according to CNN. The National Zoo’s chief veterinarian, Dr. Suzan Murray, explained lack of oxygen contributed to liver damage stating:

“This is most likely due to the lungs that were not fully formed, that were impeding the flow, the proper absorption of oxygen, which then led to the death of the liver cells.”

The unnamed four-ounce female panda cub was conceived through artificial insemination at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo becoming the second born to 14-year-old female Mei Xiang and 15-year-old male Tian Tian, both of which are on loan from the People’s Republic of China.

Newborn panda cubs are only about the size of a stick of butter, leaving experts to worry about the threat of physical trauma since the mother can weigh as much as 200 pounds.

The necropsy of the baby panda showed no signs of crushing or external physical problems, adds USA Today.

“There were no signs of internal or external trauma. The final necropsy determined that lung and liver damage ultimately caused the cub’s death. Her lungs were poorly developed and likely caused her to have insufficient oxygen, which would be consistent with the changes in the liver. The mortality rate for pandas in their first year in captivity is estimated to be 26 percent for males and 20 percent for females. Some early mortality rates may be underestimated.”

The death of the newborn panda brought a depressing ending to a much celebrated event, the birth of a highly endangered species. Zoo officials expected an increase in attendance by a half-million visitors due to the birth.

According to zoo officials, Mei is returning to her old self as well since the death of the panda cub:

“We are happy to report that Mei is almost completely back to her old self! Her hormones have returned to normal levels, as has her behavior. Mei is choosing to go outside in the mornings. In the afternoons she can usually be found napping on her indoor rock work.”