Giant panda artificially inseminated at National Zoo

(PHOTO: Smithsonian’s National Zoo)

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Giant panda, Mei Xiang, was artificially inseminated at Smithsonian’s National Zoo Thursday.

Scientists have been closely monitoring Mei Xiang’s behavior and hormones since displaying a change of behavior starting February 17, indicating she was almost ready to breed.

Mei Xiang’s estrogen levels peaked Wednesday meaning she was ovulating and able to become pregnant. Female giant pandas are only able to become pregnant for 24 to 72 hours each year.

Since the window when a giant panda can conceive a cub is so short, the Zoo’s panda team immediately moved to perform an artificial insemination on Mei Xiang. They artificially inseminated her using fresh and frozen semen from Tian Tian, a male giant panda at the zoo, for the procedures.

“Successful conservation requires cooperation and the expertise of our animal keepers, veterinarians and scientists. Our team worked seamlessly to give Mei Xiang and Tian Tian the best chance to contribute to their species’ survival,” said Steve Monfort, Acting Director of Smithsonian’s National Zoo and John and Adrienne Mars Director, Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute.

The panda team will not know if the artificial inseminations were successful for several months. Giant panda pregnancies and pseudopregnancies generally last between three and six months. Zoo veterinarians will conduct ultrasounds to track changes in Mei Xiang’s reproductive tract and determine if she is pregnant during the next several months.