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Posted at 1:30 PM ET, 02/ 1/2011

Panda pregnancy watch begins at the Zoo

By Michael E. Ruane

The National Zoo announced Tuesday that its annual giant panda pregnancy watch has begun, with the artificial insemination of its female giant panda, Mei Xiang, on Saturday and Sunday.
meipanda.JPG

The zoo, assisted by Chinese veterinarian Tang Chunxiang, of the China Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda, attempted to have Mei Xiang and the zoo’s male giant panda, Tian Tian, mate naturally on Saturday.

When that failed, the scientists inseminated Mei Xiang with frozen sperm taken from Tian Tian in 2005 -- the same year that artificial insemination produced the pregnancy that resulted in the pair’s lone cub, Tai Shan.

The zoo is focusing intense effort this year and next year on trying to achieve a pregnancy with its giant pandas, and may be able to request new pandas from the China, if the effort fails.

The zoo’s current giant pandas have been at the facility for over a decade and, to the zoo’s dismay, Tai Shan has been their only cub. China recently signed a new agreement allowing the zoo to have giant pandas for five more years.

Panda gestation usually runs 90 to 185 days. In the coming weeks, experts will closely monitor Mei Xiang and perform ultrasounds to try to determine if she is pregnant. But because of the mysteries of panda reproduction, they may not be able to tell for sure unless a cub does or does not materialize by spring.

By Michael E. Ruane  | February 1, 2011; 1:30 PM ET
Categories:  DC  
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Comments

Washington, DC is a toxic environment. No wonder Mei Xiang doesn't get pregnant.

Posted by: foofoofoo | February 1, 2011 2:16 PM | Report abuse

Why does this keep making the news? Year after year? Month after month? This is not a rhetorical question.

Posted by: forgetthis | February 1, 2011 3:48 PM | Report abuse

Where's Ron Burgundy when you need him?

Probably drinking milk (bad idea).

Posted by: mjc11 | February 1, 2011 5:41 PM | Report abuse

Doesn't WaPo have something more important to write about? The yearly updates on whether the bears get it on or not. I'd rather read about Michael E. Ruane's mating habits...

Posted by: rpcv84 | February 1, 2011 7:21 PM | Report abuse

Hopefully part of providing a quiet environment conducive to a successful panda pregnancy includes removing all of the rats and mice that infest the pandas' living space. Scientific research suggests that conditions in the pandas' environment play a huge role in whether a pregnancy is successful. If the animal is stressed or senses that conditions would threaten a potential cub, a birth is unlikely to happen. Given disease ramifications and the fact that a newborn cub is smaller than some of the rats I've seen in close proximity to the sleeping/resting pandas, you have to wonder if the female panda's natural instincts kick in, resulting in loss of pregnancy or no pregnancy at all.

Posted by: probablecause | February 2, 2011 2:46 AM | Report abuse

Hopefully part of providing a quiet environment conducive to a successful panda pregnancy includes removing all of the rats and mice that infest the pandas' living space. Scientific research suggests that conditions in the pandas' environment play a huge role in whether a pregnancy is successful. If the animal is stressed or senses that conditions would threaten a potential cub, a birth is unlikely to happen. Given disease ramifications and the fact that a newborn cub is smaller than some of the rats I've seen in close proximity to the sleeping/resting pandas, you have to wonder if the female panda's natural instincts kick in, resulting in loss of pregnancy or no pregnancy at all.

Posted by: probablecause | February 2, 2011 2:47 AM | Report abuse

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