Panda pregnancy watch begins at the Zoo
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.
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.
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