Sunday, July 31, 2011

Tragic panda accidents

Beijing panda birth ends in tragic accident

AOL News

TAIPEI, Taiwan (July 6) --
After giving birth to twins, a panda at the Beijing Zoo accidentally crushed one of them to death, a zoo official confirmed today.

The other panda baby, utterly ignored by its mother, Ying Hua, has been moved to a panda conservation center in Sichuan Province, where it will be cared for and raised.

The drama began Friday, when first-time mother Ying Hua bore twin female cubs, according to China Daily and other media reports.

Panda, Bejing, Zoo

Ying Hua the panda, shown at the Bejing Zoo in 2008, gave birth to twin cubs but accidentally crushed one of the newborns, a zoo official said.

Ying Hua immediately began nursing the first cub she saw but paid no attention to the other.

"Mother pandas are always like that," zoo deputy president Zhang Jinguo told China Daily. "Twins are rare, and all mothers take only the first cub as their own."

As it turned out, the snubbed cub was luckier than its twin sister.

The 8-year-old Ying Hua doted on her favorite daughter like any excited new panda mom, licking her and responding immediately to her every cry for help, Taiwan's Central News Agency reported, citing a report from Beijing's Xinjing newspaper.

But less than 20 hours after the baby's birth, the mom's doting did her in.

Security camera footage showed Ying Hua, apparently responding to her cub's cry for milk, attempting to turn her body around in a tight corner of her pen around 4:45 a.m. As her head pressed up against the wall, the cub was crushed between her chin and chest, according to Zhang.

"Ying Hua was too nervous," said one unnamed zookeeper. "She didn't have any experience raising a child."

Since her daughter's death, "careless" Ying Hua has refused to eat or drink, keeps searching her enclosure fruitlessly and has clawed up the floor of the enclosure, creating an "unbearable" scene for the keepers, according to the Central News Agency.

"This kind of accident has happened at other zoos, but it's the first time at the Beijing Zoo," a keeper said.

On the bright side, Shangye Diantai reported that a panda couple at Hong Kong's Ocean Park, Le Le and Ying Ying, are expected to have a baby next year. "Protecting the panda baby will be a big challenge," the article said.

Baby pandas are born "pink, with almost no hair, and blind," and weigh 4 to 8 ounces on average, according to a fact sheet from Pandas International.

"If twins are born, usually only one survives in the wild," the fact sheet reads. "The mother will select the stronger of the cubs, and the weaker will die. It is thought that the mother cannot produce enough milk for two cubs since she does not store fat."

The current giant panda population is estimated at 1,600, with 200 bears in captivity, according to Pandas International.

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