Zoo to begin panda pregnancy watch
Is she or isn't she?
National Zoo officials announced that beginning at 4 p.m. on Friday, they will begin a 24-hour pregnancy watch of D.C.'s favorite panda mother -- Mei Xiang (may-SHONG) -- raising the hope of panda fans still mourning the departure of their beloved Tai Shan.
More than 40 Friends of the National Zoo (FONZ) volunteers and animal care staff will closely monitor Mei Xiang for signs of "maternal behavior" through her interactions with her keepers and 38 cameras set up throughout the giant panda habitat.
This is no simple task. FONZ volunteers have undergone hours of training to be able to participate in the 24-hour watch. They have learned to identify and record a variety of behaviors -- such as nest building and cradling of small objects by Mei Xiang -- that might indicate a panda cub is on the way. Recently, volunteer watchers have observed Mei Xiang spending more time shredding bamboo in her den to make a nest.
The decision to begin the watch Friday afternoon came after zoo scientists determined that Mei Xiang’s hormone levels are approaching baseline, indicating that the end of her real (or pseudo) pregnancy is near. Within 24 hours of reaching baseline -- which could happen in days or weeks -- anxious panda fans will know whether a new cub has arrived.
In anticipation of increased traffic to the pandacam, the zoo will limit each view to five minutes per session. Visitors must refresh their browser to view the webcam again, and they will either return immediately to the cam or, if the site has too much traffic, be asked to try again later.
Washington Post editors
| April 23, 2010; 12:50 PM ET
Tags: Biology, Giant Panda, Mei Xiang, National Zoo, Smithsonian Institution, Smithsonian National Zoological Park, Tai Shan, Webcam
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