Red Panda Cub Dies From Lack Of Milk

By Emma Koch

Credit: Fort Wayne Children's Zoo

Red Panda Cub Dies From Lack Of Milk

June 7, 2013 Updated Jun 7, 2013 at 4:17 PM EDT

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (www.incnow.tv) -- A red panda cub, born at the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo on June 3 to female Xiao, age 3, and her 4-year-old mate, Junjie, has died.

This is the second litter of cubs to be born at the zoo since 1997. Two cubs were born to Xiao in 2012, but neither cub survived.

An endangered species, red pandas are difficult to breed and rear in captivity. About half of all cubs die within 30 days of birth. Only a few dozen red panda cubs are born in United States zoos each year.

A necropsy conducted by the zoo’s veterinary staff revealed that the cub had not ingested any milk. This could mean that the cub did not nurse, or that Xiao did not produce any milk.

“Raising animals in zoos is not an exact science,” said Weldon. “Our preference is always for animals to raise their own young, rather than hand-rearing them. Mother-raised babies always become better parents when they have their own young. It’s a fine line to know when to intervene.”

Mary Noell of the Cincinnati Zoo serves as North American Regional Studbook Keeper for red pandas and maintains data on all red pandas in United States and Canadian zoos. “This is not an unusual situation,” she said of the cub’s death. “Xiao is still a very young panda.” In general, young mothers are less successful in rearing young.

“There is a genetic line within this subspecies where [the females] do not produce enough milk,” Noell said. “Unfortunately we don’t know this is a possibility until a cub dies.”

Noell said that Xiao’s future as a breeding red panda will be evaluated. Recommendations for breeding and transferring animals among zoos are made annually. Both Noell and Weldon noted that either Xiao or Junjie could be moved to another zoo to find a new mate in the future.

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