Two of Shanghai's pandas — the first to be born in the city and her mother — have died, Shanghai Wildlife Park said yesterday.
Guo Guo, who was 21 years old, showed symptoms that included fever and vomiting on December 19, and she had been separated from Hua Sheng, her cub, for treatment.
Her situation worsened three days later when she suffered convulsions and was diagnosed with acute pancreatitis, the park said. She died on December 26.
The park said it was still investigating what caused her death, including examining the food she had been eating.
Hua Sheng died on December 31, just 175 days after her birth. Her name, which had been decided by public vote, suggested healthy growth and fertility, and there were hopes she would eventually help to expand the giant panda population in the city.
She had been breast fed since birth and was with her mother constantly. Guo Guo was very protective of her, the park said.
However, after Guo Guo became sick, keepers had been feeding Hua Sheng and she, too, had begun vomiting. On December 23, she was diagnosed with a twisted intestine.
She underwent an operation to remove 80 centimeters of her intestine, about a third of its length, and received a transfusion of blood from other pandas on December 29. But two days later she died from massive intestinal necrosis and multiple organ failure.
Giant panda keeper Min Yingguo said the intestinal system of giant pandas is complex and a twisted intestine is a common condition in panda cubs between four and six months old.
The low recovery rate from the condition and the sudden change in her feeding regime probably contributed to her death, he said.
At four months, pandas have learned to walk and excessive movement can lead to a twisted intestine. That's one of the reasons the park strictly controls the amount of time panda cubs are allowed to play, Min said.
"I feel so sad for Hua Sheng's death, and I liked playing with her and talking with her when she was alive," Min said.
The park said both animals had received extensive treatment from its own staff as well as experts from the China Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda, the Children's Hospital of Fudan University and the Shanghai Animal Disease Prevention and Control Center.
Ni Li, an employee at the park's office, said an announcement about the pandas had not been issued earlier because the park was carrying out a pathological analysis in conjunction with the conservation center.
"We feel very sad over the two giant pandas' death," Ni said.
She said the two pandas had been well looked after at the park.
"Our animal keepers are professional and took good care of them, and the raising procedures were strictly based on common practice, but raising giant pandas is very difficult," she said.
The bodies of Guo Guo and Hua Sheng have been frozen and preserved, Ni said.
The conservation center and the park are conducting research and have sent samples to scientific research institutions for analysis to prevent similar tragedies, the park said.
The park now has five giant pandas, including twins born on October 4 last year.
It was designated a giant panda reserve by the State Forestry Administration of China in March last year. There are two other reserves, in Beijing and Guangzhou. All aim to expand the panda population.