Mei XiangSome extremely sad news comes out of our nation's capital today, as the new giant panda cub has died. Just last week the world celebrated the birth of the unexpected cub, and today zoo officials found it dead, after hearing cries of distress from its mother, Mei Xiang.

The National Zoo tweeted this morning: "We are brokenhearted to share that we have lost our little giant panda cub."

Dennis Kelly, director of the zoo, expressed his grief in a news conference today over the cub, who had not yet been named: "This is devastating for all of us here. It's hard to describe how much passion and energy and care has gone into this."

If you remember, it was just this past May when we were watching the live tweets from the zoo as Mei Xiang was artificially inseminated. There was less than a 20 percent chance that she would get pregnant, but she did, and it was a great moment for the zoo and the world when the cub was born.

But that joy didn't last, and zoo officials aren't sure why. According to the  Associated Press, there were "no outward signs of trauma or infection." While hopefully they will be able to determine what happened, the loss is devastating no matter the cause of death.

"These bears are so critically endangered that every panda cub is important," Suzan Murray, the zoo's chief veterinarian, told CNN.

This cub's birth came after years of hoping and trying for another addition to the family. To see its life end so suddenly is devastating, and it must be especially so for Mei Xing. After the cub's birth, Murray had written:

Mei Xiang is behaving exactly the same way she did when Tai Shan was born. She is cradling her cub closely, and she looks so tired, but every time she tries to lay down, the cub squawks and she sits right up and cradles the cub more closely. She is the poster child for a perfect panda mom.

Here she was with the cub:

And now she has lost her baby. While I don't believe animals feel emotion exactly the same way humans do, she is inevitably feeling a loss and hurting along with the many people around the world who have become so passionate about these beautiful animals.

 Are you surprised to hear this sad news?

 

Image via Marit & Toomas Hinosaar/Flickr