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Panda Conservation Debated After Cub Death At National Zoo

Lauren Foliart |
September 25, 2012 | 10:03 a.m. PDT

Executive Producer


(Photo from Flickr via Creative Commons)
(Photo from Flickr via Creative Commons)
Zoo keepers found the body of a six-day-old panda at the National Zoo in Washington on Sunday, spurring debate over the conservation of the delicate specie.

The cause of death is still unclear, however, the possibility that the 4-ounce cub was crushed by its mother has been ruled out.

The cub's death was brought to attention by the cub's mother Mei Xiang's loud "honking" of distress, officials said.  Veterinarians try to revive the cub, performing techniques such as CPR, but pronounced it dead six minutes after retrieving it from its den.

“These bears are so critically endangered that every cub is important,” Dennis Kelly, the zoo’s director, said at a news conference on Sunday. “This is devastating for all of us here.”

After the cub's 14-year-old mother Mei Xiang failed to conceive naturally five separate times, keepers decided to use artificial insemination, leading to the baby panda's conception on Sept. 16. 

The perils of panda reproduction results in the species' dwindling numbers in captivity.  The panda bear, with an estimated 1,600 believed to be living in the wild, has become symbolic for efforts to save endangered species.  

PHOTOS: Panda Cubs and Moms

According to the World Wildlife Fund, to allow the species to become extinct is not even a consideration.

"Protecting the panda goes beyond basic species conservation," said Sybille Klenzendorf, managing director of the species-conservation program at the World Wildlife Fund.

"The panda, which has served as WWF's logo for more than 50 years, is the universal symbol for hope, so mobilizing people to help protect the panda and panda habitat is representative of protecting and conserving all the rich biodiversity — plants, landscapes, other animals — that are essential to life on Earth."

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