FRONT ROYAL, Va (WUSA9)--Shama, a 7-year-old female red panda was euthanized at the Smithsonian's Conservation Biology Institute in Front Royal over the weekend.
Shama was a new mother, having just given birth to 3 cubs on June 26th.
Zoo officials, through a news release, said Shama was put down on Saturday, August 16. "A necropsy performed later that evening revealed severe cerebral edema (swelling of the brain). Based on preliminary cytology, the swelling is attributed to encephalitis associated with a microscopic parasite.
"On Wednesday, Aug. 13, keepers noticed that Shama had developed a neurologic disorder that progressed quickly. Shama was euthanized due to her worsening clinical condition and poor neurological function, which was likely attributed to accumulation of fluid in the brain."
Shama's cubs are now being hand-reared by zoo staff. For preventative reasons the Smithsonian says Shama's babies are getting anti-protozoal treatments.
Shama was under close observation at the Smithsonian's Front Royal facility after giving birth to her cubs because "It is rare for a red panda to successfully raise three cubs," said the news release.
Shama's mate, Rusty, made news back June 2013 when he escaped his enclosure at the National Zoo in DC.
Rusty, who was with Shama and the cubs at Front Royal, is also getting anti-protozoal treatments as a precaution. Officials say he is doing well.
"Shama's death is a big loss for all of us and for those who study and care for red pandas everywhere," said National Zoo Director Dennis Kelly. "I have a lot of confidence in the team caring for the surviving cubs and hope this creates an opportunity for scientists to research infectious diseases that affect red pandas."