National Zoo giant panda cub Bei Bei receives ‘life-saving’ surgery

WASHINGTON — National Zoo giant panda cub Bei Bei is recovering after an emergency surgery Friday morning to remove bamboo that was obstructing his bowels.

On Thursday, Bei Bei showed signs of stomach discomfort and nausea. Zoo staff and veterinarians monitored him through the day and overnight. Veterinarians evaluated the giant panda Friday morning and, through an ultrasound, found a blockage of bamboo that was distending the small intestine and preventing intestinal movement, the zoo said in a news release.

Doctors determined surgery was the only way to remove the lemon-sized mass, and Dr. Sebastian Gordon, a veterinary surgeon, performed the procedure the zoo called “life saving.”

“Bei Bei’s prognosis is very good. The challenge will be for our team to monitor him safely and that requires his cooperation,” Director Dennis Kelly said in a news release. “We will keep everyone up to speed as he recovers.”

In the coming days, zoo staff and veterinarians will focus on getting Bei Bei’s gastrointestinal tract moving smoothly and managing any discomfort.

Bei Bei, who turned 1 year old in August, will have a slightly different diet — he will soon be transitioned to soft foods such as sweet potatoes and pears. When he is allowed to eat bamboo again, it will likely be finely cut leaves, the zoo said in the release.

“There is every expectation Bei Bei will return to his normal diet in the near future,” the zoo said in the release.

While he is recovering, Bei Bei will be housed separately from Mei Xiang, his mother, and will not be shown on the panda cams. Also, the panda house is temporarily closed, the zoo said.

Sarah Beth Hensley

Sarah Beth Hensley is the Digital News Director at WTOP. She has worked several different roles since she began with WTOP in 2013 and has contributed to award-winning stories and coverage on the website.

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