Washington: Bei Bei, a giant panda cub who is a star attraction at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo in Washington, was in stable condition on Friday after emergency surgery to remove a “lemon-sized mass of bamboo” lodged in his digestive tract, officials said.

The one-year-old panda, the youngest of the zoo’s four giant pandas, started showing signs of stomach discomfort and nausea on Thursday. He was sleeping more than usual and had little appetite for bamboo, his favourite food.

Veterinarians performed an ultrasound on Friday morning, revealing a life-threatening blockage in his small intestine. A volunteer veterinary surgeon then performed the operation to remove the dense, masticated mass of bamboo, which was preventing intestinal movement.

“Bei Bei’s prognosis is very good,” zoo director Dennis Kelly said in a statement.

The 90-pound cub was an internet sensation even before his birth, as people around the world monitored his mother’s pregnancy on the zoo’s “panda cam” in anticipation of his arrival at the Washington zoo.

While Bei Bei recovers, veterinary staff will restrict him to water and gradually introduce soft foods such as sweet potatoes and pears. Eventually he will return to eating bamboo.