Brace yourselves for sadness, animal lovers: Shama, the National Zoo’s seven-year-old female red panda, was euthanized on Saturday at the zoo’s facility in Front Royal, Virginia. According to a press release, a necropsy turned up evidence of severe cerebral edema caused by “encephalitis associated with a microscopic parasite.” Zookeepers noticed something was amiss with Shama the Wednesday before, and her condition worsened rapidly. “Shama was euthanized due to her worsening clinical condition and poor neurological function, which was likely attributed to accumulation of fluid in the brain,” says the zoo.
Shama and Rusty, her male companion, gave birth to their first litter of cubs together earlier this summer. The three cubs are now being hand-reared by staffers, and appear to be developing normally, though one is being treated for pneumonia. Escape artist Rusty also appears to be healthy.
“Shama’s death is a big loss for all of us and for those who study and care for red pandas everywhere,” says National Zoo director Dennis Kelly in the release. “I have a lot of confidence in the team caring for the surviving cubs and hope this creates an opportunity for scientists to research infectious diseases that affect red pandas.”
Find Tanya Pai on Twitter at @tanyapai.