National Zoo’s Red Panda, Shama, Dies After Brain Disorder

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Shama the red panda was a mate of Rusty. (Photo from Smithsonian National Zoo)

Shama the red panda was a mate of Rusty. (Photo from Smithsonian National Zoo)

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FRONT ROYAL, Va. (WNEW/AP) — The National Zoo says a female red panda has been euthanized at a conservation center in Virginia after suffering brain swelling associated with a microscopic parasite.

The 7-year-old red panda named Shama died Saturday. She became well known at the zoo as the mate of Rusty, who escaped the National Zoo last year. Shama gave birth to three cubs earlier this summer but developed a brain disorder that quickly progressed. The condition was diagnosed Aug. 13.

Shama, Rusty and the cubs were housed at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Front Royal, Virginia.

Zookeepers say Shama’s three cubs are now being hand-reared by animal keepers. The cubs are active, but one is smaller than the others and is being treated for pneumonia.

“Shama’s death is a big loss for all of us and for those who study and care for red pandas everywhere,” said National Zoo Director Dennis Kelly. “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.”

(© Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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