It had been nearly a quarter of a century since Japan had seen a baby giant panda. The birth of the baby was a moment of joy. The news of the birth spread like wildfire via numerous media outlets. But just six days later, the news of the infant’s death has brought many to tears. Even the China Foreign Ministry offered their condolences.
“We lament the loss of the cub and believe the Japanese people who have been looking forward to the panda’s cub will also lament its loss,” said China Foreign Ministry spokesman, Liu Weimin.
The unnamed cub was born to seven-year-old Shin Shin, a giant panda on loan from China. The first day after the baby’s birth, she seemed to be very attentive to her newborn. She nursed it frequently, and all seemed to be going well for both mother and baby. But by the next night, Shin Shin seemed to have tired of the infant. She’d wander away and head off to eat bamboo shoots.
Zoo staff started moving the baby back and forth between incubator and Shin Shin, watching closely for signs of interest from the mother. On Monday, they kept the baby panda in the incubator, concerned that it wasn’t getting enough milk. Then, on Tuesday, they returned him to his mother’s side.
According to staff, the baby was still alive at 6:45 in the morning on Wednesday. They knew this because they could still hear his cries. But when they went in to check on him less than an hour later, they found him face up on Shin Shin’s chest in a state of cardiac arrest.
Immediately, staff took him to the incubator and administered heart massage, trying to save him. But by 8:30am, he was pronounced dead. Staff later announced that the infant died of pneumonia after some of his mother’s milk had made its way into his lungs.
In a press conference, zoo officials said that around 60%-70% of baby giant pandas die within their first week of life. A panda breeding expert from China, who was on site at the time of the baby’s death, confirmed that this is a common occurrence in China as well. But common or not, people all across the world are mourning the loss of the adorable little pink bundle, especially those that cared for him.
“It’s truly unfortunate,” said Ueno Zoo director, Toshimitsu Doi as he choked back tears. “There’s always a sense of sadness when an animal passes away. But it was truly, a very unfortunate passing.”