Sad news from the National Zoo: Their three-week-old red panda cub has died.
A keeper discovered the lifeless cub yesterday during evening rounds. He was brought to the veterinary hospital where staff confirmed he had died. Pathologists are working to determine a cause of death.
"Due to the recent extreme heat, keepers were extra vigilant maintaining the animals' cooling centers (chilled spaces within the exhibit). Nonetheless, there is a 50 percent mortality rate for red panda cubs born in captivity," the zoo explained in a release.
The cub had been the first born at the zoo in 15 years, although the zoo's Conservation and Research Center in Front Royal, Va. has had more recent success, including a cub born in July 2009.
The D.C. newborn was the first cub for his parents Shama and Tate. The mother had moved him around the outdoor exhibit instead of keeping him in a nest box, so the zoo had roped off the area from the public.
"This is an enigmatic and important species," said Dennis Kelly, director of the National Zoological Park. "We're deeply disappointed to lose this cub but there are inherent risks in the conservation of rare species."