The Utica Zoo is releasing the cause of death of its female Red Panda Ming Yue, who died on October 11.

A necropsy conducted at Cornell University shows Ming Yue experienced acute aspiration pneumonia.

Zoo officials say that’s a lung infection caused by inhalation of saliva, stomach contents or other foreign particles.

It can be caused by being startled when eating or drinking, breathing in dust particles, or even having food or water “go down the wrong tube.”

Officials say acute conditions are severe and sudden in onset and it’s unknown how this occurred with Ming Yue.

They say Ming was exhibiting typical behaviors, eating properly and even interacting with staff normally two days prior to her sudden death and showed no signs of distress or illness.

The necropsy report also mentioned a potential underlying cardiac issue which could have complicated the acute health problems.

"We wanted to follow up with everyone who expressed concern over our female red panda Ming Yue’s unexpected death a couple of weeks ago. It is an industry standard for accredited and reputable zoos to perform a “necropsy” when an animal under human care dies. An animal necropsy is the equivalent of a human autopsy, including an overall investigation to determine cause of death; this includes both a full physical examination and sampling/testing of tissues by an experienced veterinarian and/or pathologist,” said Jay Pratte, Deputy Director of Life Sciences and Facilities at the Utica Zoo.

Ming Yue was one of two Red Pandas on exhibit at the Utica Zoo.

Red pandas are currently classified as an endangered species and the Utica Zoo works closely with the Red Panda Species Survival Plan to reverse the trend.

The Red Panda exhibit was one of the zoo's most popular for animal encounters.

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