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Heartbreak of pining panda mum after keepers replace dead six-day-old cub with a soft toy to comfort her


Can you see her? Mei Xiang clutched her tiny cub so tight to her that even zookeepers had a hard time spotting her

The heartbroken mother panda at the Nation Zoo clutched a familiar toy for comfort one day after her six-day-old cub died in her arms.
Mei Xiang huddled in her den on Monday, clinging to a rubber 'kong' in place the baby girl she gave birth to less than a week ago.
The newborn panda had been a welcome surprise for zookeepers in Washington, D.C. They had tried unsuccessfully to impregnate her on five separate occasions and did not think the 14-year-old Chinese great panda would ever conceive again.

Mourning: Mei Xiang has been huddled in her den, clutching a toy zookeepers gave her, since the death of her cub on Sunday -- less than one week after it was born

Veterinarians still aren't certain what killed the tiny cub, which was no bigger than a stick of butter. A necropsy revealed that the newborn had an abnormal liver and worrying fluid buildup in its abdomen.
Zoo staff were alerted to the cub's death on Sunday morning when the baby's contented coos faded and Mei Xiang panicked and began uttering distressed howls from her den.

Sad news: Dennis W. Kelly (L), Director of the Smithsonian's National Zoo, and Suzan Murray (R), chief veterinarian, talk about the sudden death of the giant panda cub during a press conference

The panda carried the rubber toy into her den when she was pregnant and began building her nest. As the gestation grew farther along, she began cuddling the object, holding it close to her, zoo officials told Mail Online.
When the cub was born at 10.45pm on September 16, she cast the toy aside and held her tiny baby tight in her paws so that it would be warm and have easy access to her milk.

The panda died just eight days after it was born

She kept the cub so tight to her chest that zookeepers were scarcely able to catch a glimpse of the newborn from the camera inside the panda den.
Zookeepers recorded the purrs and 'honks' of the contented newborn and took the noises as confirmation that she was healthy.
Zoo keepers left the pair alone, hoping Mei Xiang could raise the cub without interference.
However, at 8.53am on Sunday, something went horribly wrong. It was the last time the veterinarians heard a peep from the cub.

Watch: Dennis Kelly, the zoo's director, monitor's Mei via the panda cam

By 9.17am Mei Xiang began uttering distress howls. Her disturbed cries alerted zookeepers that something terrible had happened.
They stood behind iron bars in the panda paddock and distracted Mei Xiang with honey, while other staffers used to stick to slid the cub away from her.
After an hour, they had the lifeless cub in their hands and tried to perform emergency resuscitation, but it was no use. The top exotic animal veterinarians in the country were unable to revive the cub.

Yummy: Mei is rewarded with honey water when she participates in an ultrasound earlier in September

With her cub gone, Mei Xiang returned to her familiar toy for comfort. Soon after she lost the cub, she began clutching it again, just as she had before the baby was born.
Zoo officials tell Mail Online that the panda has risen to eat and drink water, but she will not let go of the rubber toy that occupied her before the birth.

source: dailymail