PICTURES

Second panda cub at US National Zoo arrives stillborn

This still image from the PandaCam at the Smithsonian National Zoo in Washington, DC, shows Giant Panda Mei Xiang on Aug 23, 2013, after the zoo announced she had given birth to a cub, raising hopes for a rare success after a series of false pregnanc
This still image from the PandaCam at the Smithsonian National Zoo in Washington, DC, shows Giant Panda Mei Xiang on Aug 23, 2013, after the zoo announced she had given birth to a cub, raising hopes for a rare success after a series of false pregnancies, officials said. -- FILE PHOTO: AFP/ SMITHSONIAN NATIONAL ZOO
This still image from the PandaCam at the Smithsonian National Zoo in Washington, DC, shows Giant Panda Mei Xiang on Aug 23, 2013, after the zoo announced she had given birth to a cub, raising hopes for a rare success after a series of false pregnanc
This still image from the PandaCam at the Smithsonian National Zoo in Washington, DC, shows Giant Panda Mei Xiang on Aug 23, 2013, after the zoo announced she had given birth to a cub, raising hopes for a rare success after a series of false pregnancies, officials said. -- FILE PHOTO: AFP/ SMITHSONIAN NATIONAL ZOO
This still image from the PandaCam at the Smithsonian National Zoo in Washington, DC, shows Giant Panda Mei Xiang on Aug 23, 2013, after the zoo announced the panda panda gave birth to a cub, rasing hopes for a rare success after a series of false pr
This still image from the PandaCam at the Smithsonian National Zoo in Washington, DC, shows Giant Panda Mei Xiang on Aug 23, 2013, after the zoo announced the panda panda gave birth to a cub, rasing hopes for a rare success after a series of false pregnancies, officials said. -- FILE PHOTO: AFP/ SMITHSONIAN NATIONAL ZOO
In this image from video provided by the Smithsonian National Zoo, Mei Xiang gives birth to a cub two hours after her water broke on Aug 23, 2013, at the National Zoo in Washington. Mei surprised its keepers by giving birth to a stillborn cub at
In this image from video provided by the Smithsonian National Zoo, Mei Xiang gives birth to a cub two hours after her water broke on Aug 23, 2013, at the National Zoo in Washington. Mei surprised its keepers by giving birth to a stillborn cub at the Smithsonian National Zoo in Washington on Saturday evening, a day after the animal delivered a live cub, an official said.-- FILE PHOTO: AFP/ SMITHSONIAN NATIONAL ZOO
This still image from the PandaCam at the Smithsonian National Zoo in Washington, DC, shows giant panda Mei Xiang on Aug 23, 2013. Mei surprised its keepers by giving birth to a stillborn cub at the Smithsonian National Zoo in Washington on Saturday
This still image from the PandaCam at the Smithsonian National Zoo in Washington, DC, shows giant panda Mei Xiang on Aug 23, 2013. Mei surprised its keepers by giving birth to a stillborn cub at the Smithsonian National Zoo in Washington on Saturday evening, a day after the animal delivered a live cub, an official said.-- FILE PHOTO: AFP/ SMITHSONIAN NATIONAL ZOO

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - A giant panda surprised its keepers by giving birth to a stillborn cub at the Smithsonian National Zoo in Washington on Saturday evening, a day after the animal delivered a live cub, an official said.

The stillborn cub was born with "many abnormalities" and when a staff member retrieved it from the floor of its mother's den it was "very apparent it had never been alive," said zoo spokeswoman Pamela Baker-Masson.

The mother panda, 15-year-old Mei Xiang, while holding onto the firstborn cub, groomed the stillborn cub for 17 minutes before letting it down, Ms Baker-Masson said.

"The fact that Mei never set down the first cub shows us, it demonstrates that she's a terrific mom," she said.

Giant pandas, which are one of the world's most endangered species, have their natural home in a few mountain ranges in central China. There are about 1,600 known to be living in the wild and another 300 in captivity, mostly in China.

About 50 percent of panda births are twins, but when midnight came and passed after the first birth, which occurred at 5.36pm local time on Friday, officials at the zoo and a visiting panda expert from China believed there would be no second birth, Ms Baker-Masson said.

But to everyone's surprise, the stillborn panda cub arrived at 7.29pm local time on Saturday, she said.

The first born panda cub appears to be healthy.

A necropsy was under way on the second cub and officials at the National Zoo planned to provide more details on Sunday.