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This is the first loss of a cub for Mei Xiang, who gave birth to her first cub Tai Shan in July 2005. Animal keepers had tried unsuccessfully since 2006 to impregnate Mei Xiang. The giant panda has had five consecutive false pregnancies since 2007, and zoo officials pegged her chances of giving birth this year at 10 percent.

Prior to the arrival of Mei Xiang and male giant panda Tian Tian in 2000, the zoo was home to Ling-Ling and Hsing-Hsing, who produced five cubs. None of them survived.

Dr. Murray said three of those cubs were stillborn, while two died of pneumonia.

A female panda can become pregnant only once a year, so if the zoo decides to try again, attempts would be sometime next year, Mr. Kelly said. Right now, the zoo is focusing on the present.

“We’re not really thinking about or discussing the future of those two adult bears,” Mr. Kelly said. “We can learn from this tragedy and, hopefully, gain a better understanding of panda reproduction.”