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Thursday, July 12, 2012

Ueno panda cub dies of pneumonia

Week-old newborn found unconscious, lying on mom's belly, after breast-feeding


Staff writer

The male cub born last week to the giant panda Shin Shin at Ueno Zoo in Tokyo died Wednesday of pneumonia.

News photo
Too soon: The newly born panda is fed inside an incubator at Ueno Zoo in Tokyo on Saturday. UENO ZOO/AP

As the cub, the first panda born at the zoo in 24 years, was being breast-fed, milk blocked its airway and caused respiration failure, which led to pneumonia, zoo director Toshimitsu Doi said.

Doi said zoo staff heard the cub cry at 6:45 a.m., but at 7:30 a.m. they saw it lying face up on Shin Shin's belly. When they picked the cub up it was in cardiac or respiratory arrest, he said.

The cub was placed in an incubator and a veterinarian conducted heart massage, but the panda was confirmed dead at 8:30 a.m., he said.

The zoo plans to set up a floral tribute where visitors can bring flowers.

"It's really sad. We see many different animals' deaths, and feel really sad each time. But this time, it's particularly (tough) thinking about all of the effort by the staff to work round the clock," Doi said in tears.

Giant panda cubs often die within their first week, especially when it's the mother's first, according to zoo vice director Yutaka Fukuda.

"According to what I've been told by (breeding experts in) China, about 60 to 70 percent of cubs in the first childbirth die within a week," Fukuda said. "It's a pity. I'm feeling the difficulty of breeding" giant pandas.

The panda team at the zoo had been observing the mother and cub 24 hours a day since the July 5 birth. Shin Shin was breast-feeding her newborn at first but stopped Friday night. Seeing the cub lying away from its mother, zoo staff put the youngling in an incubator early Saturday. The cub was returned to its mother Monday.

Shin Shin was breast-feeding the cub Tuesday evening and both were in good health at that time, Fukuda said.



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