WASHINGTON (WUSA) -- Officials with the Smithsonian National Zoo shared preliminary results from the necropsy of the giant panda cub, who died on Sunday morning. The six-day-old cub died after efforts to resuscitate the cub failed.
During a press conference on Monday at 10 a.m., chief veterinarian Dr. Suzan Murray said that the staff's main concern was trying to find out the cause of the panda cub's death and shared the following:
- there was evidence of milk in the cub's gastrointestinal tract, meaning the cub had been nursed, but they don't know at this point how recently it had been nursed
- free fluid was discovered in the abdomen. The amount was moderate to increased for a cub but further testing will determine more about whether this was a factor in the death
- the cub's liver felt hard in places and the color was not uniform, indicating that the liver may be a component ion the death but again, officials won't know until the slides are back
- the coat of the cub was in good condition
- officials say the cub may have been a female
Murray says the last "honk" or cry from the cub was at 8:53 a.m. At about 9:17 a.m. on Sunday, panda keepers and volunteers heard distress cries from the mother panda, Mei Xiang, and veterinarians responded immediately according to their emergency plan. National Zoo Spokesperson Pamela Baker-Masson told 9News' Kristin Fisher on Monday morning that they trained for these types of situations. By all accounts, the team executed their plan perfectly.
The staff turned off the panda cam and went behind bars to use a stick to retrieve the cub for evaluation at about 10:22 a.m. The staff says it took an hour to retrieve the baby, which they say is fairly quick considering Mei Xiang is a wild animal. They had to retrieve the cub this way because Mei Xiang would not get out of the way and they wanted to be able to get the cub safely.
Veterinarians immediately performed CPR and other life-saving procedures but the cub did not respond.
The statement released by the zoo states that veterinarians found the cub in good body condition, there were no signs of trauma and no sign of infection.
The cub had a good body and was a good weight, approximately four ounces. Staff says it was the size of a stick of butter.
Zoo Director Dennis Kelly says, "Our staff is heartbroken. I'm worried about my staff. They are struggling just doing their job. All around the globe there is heartbreak that our precious six day old cub didn't make it."
Zoo officials say they are keeping Mei Xiang under close observation as she is their main concern. The panda house where Mei Xiang is resting will be closed and will remain out of public view for the time being. Zoo officials say they will, however, keep the panda cam on. Visitors will still be able to view the father, Tian Tian.
The cub was born on Sunday, Sept. 16.
Murray, "We were in love with the cub already. The cub was beautiful and the eye markings were coming in. It was just perfect. Cub and mom had been doing so well. There was no indication anything was wrong."
The zoo made its first call to China to share the sad news. Zoo officials are continuing to keep their Chinese counterparts informed of all developments. Officials said at the press conference on Monday that they know of nothing at this point that they could have done differently.