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Posted at 10:16 AM ET, 04/28/2010

National Zoo's panda -- not pregnant

By Washington Post editors

Thumbnail image for Mei Xiang.JPG

The National Zoo announced Wednesday morning that its female giant panda, Mei Xiang, is not pregnant.

The conclusion was reached, the zoo said, after experts studied an array of physical, behavioral, and chemical clues.

“Based on current hormone analyses, and not having seen a fetus during the ultrasound exams, Zoo researchers have determined that Mei Xiang experienced a pseudopregnancy,” the zoo said in a statement issued about 9:30 a.m.

The zoo had placed the panda on 24-hour pregnancy watch on Friday, and officials had high hopes that Mei might be pregnant. She was artificially inseminated twice in January. Although indications were trending against pregnancy, zoo officials still held out hope Tuesday.

“There’s still a smidge of hope,” zoo spokeswoman Pamela Baker-Masson said Tuesday.

But zoo scientists realized later Tuesday that Mei was not pregnant, the announcement said.
The chief clue was the level of the hormone progesterone, which rises during the bear’s pregnancy cycle then falls steeply back to “baseline.” Once it falls back to baseline and stays there, scientists expect to see the birth of a cub within a day or so. If there is no cub, the pregnancy is declared over.

Mei’s hormone levels dropped to baseline late last week, and when no cub appeared, the zoo realized she was not pregnant. Pandas go through a pregnancy cycle whether or not they are actually pregnant.

The disappointment comes in the wake of the departure in February of the zoo’s giant panda favorite, Tai Shan, who was born at the zoo in 2005. Tai was sent to join a breeding program in China. In addition, the zoo faces the possibility that Mei Xiang and her mate, Tian Tian, may also soon depart.

Baker-Masson, the zoo spokeswoman, said: "We're hugely disappointed. It's a very significant, collaborative effort...My colleagues go through herculean efforts when it comes to panda reproduction, so it's very puzzling and extremely disappointing that we didn't have a cub this year."

The adult giant pandas are here on a 10-year lease from China that expires in December.

Mei Xiang has had numerous pseudopregnancies in the past, and in ten years has produced one cub, Tai Shan.

“It’s a disappointment for all of us,” said zoo reproduction physiologist Pierre Comizzoli. “We are obviously disappointed. But we just keep trying.”

-- Michael E. Ruane

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By Washington Post editors  | April 28, 2010; 10:16 AM ET
Categories:  DC, Maryland, Virginia  | Tags:  China, Giant Panda, Mei Xiang, Smithsonian National Zoological Park, Tai Shan, Tian Tian  
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Comments

who gives a damn.

Posted by: adrienne_najjar | April 28, 2010 10:29 AM | Report abuse

Instead of the Post focusing/writing on this friggin' panda's pregnancy status several times a year (who really gives a crap anyway??) why not shift your focus to the thousands of babies having babies that I see each day in DC and what needs to be done to PREVENT them from their pregnancies??

Posted by: rpcv84 | April 28, 2010 11:44 AM | Report abuse

Great story: compelling and rich.

Posted by: Nygaard62 | April 28, 2010 1:21 PM | Report abuse

"Instead of the Post focusing/writing on this friggin' panda's pregnancy status several times a year (who really gives a crap anyway??) why not shift your focus to the thousands of babies having babies that I see each day in DC and what needs to be done to PREVENT them from their pregnancies??"

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Interesting, but I somehow doubt that those folks read the Washington Post.

Posted by: blackforestcherry | April 28, 2010 1:44 PM | Report abuse

Wow, the first two comments on this story make a compelling case for eliminating comments altogether. What a couple of jackasses.

Posted by: jochpo | April 28, 2010 2:02 PM | Report abuse

Her body. Her choice.

Posted by: chambers14 | April 28, 2010 3:40 PM | Report abuse

It's the fault of George Bush and the Republicans that Mei Xiang can't get pregnant!

Posted by: pmendez | April 28, 2010 3:48 PM | Report abuse

The 1st 2 posters should die of aids or be set on fire in front of the zoo.
Now that would be a compelling read.

Else, we just have the pandas as a 2nd story.

Oh well, we can only hope for the 1st 2 posters' demise.

btw, it's not Babies having babies in DC, but all over the world you chumpanzee.

Posted by: Rocc00 | April 28, 2010 4:37 PM | Report abuse

Neither am I.

Posted by: fleeciewool | April 28, 2010 6:10 PM | Report abuse

Shocker, a panda not getting pregnant at the National Zoo. Who cares anyway? Once the cub is born, the countdown is on until it gets shipped back to China. Baby pandas might be the only thing China imports from us, BTW.

Posted by: BurgundyNGold | April 28, 2010 10:03 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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