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The Cub's 24th–26th Months

August 24: A Training Milestone for Tai

The floor work may be completed soon. Showcase One had the most extensive repairs, which were complicated by the discovery of a leaky valve and water underneath the rockwork, which may have been the cause of the damage to the floor.

Tai Shan now weighs 153 pounds. We have been able to rotate the pandas through the exhibits and reintroduce the adults since the end of Mei Xiang’s pseudopregnancy in July. Tai has been spending more time in Yards One and Two, which gives him the opportunity to explore both adults’ scent marks, as well as look at them through the mesh windows and chute doors. Tai chirps softly to both Tian Tian and Mei Xiang. Tian has sniffed him a few times and Mei has moaned. Neither one is very interested in Tai’s presence. Tai has spent a lot of time climbing his old favorite trees in Yard Two and has chosen to perch in the willow closest to one of the visitor walkways.

Tai Shan and his trainer, Nicole Meese, recently accomplished a training milestone! On Tuesday, Zoo veterinarian Carlos Sanchez was able to draw the first blood sample for analysis. Over the past few months, Tai has been taught to sit in the training cage and place his arm through a window. He has to grasp a bar and rest his arm on a shelf without moving, in preparation for a successful procedure. Tai did not even flinch when he was stuck with the needle! Regular blood draws give us important baseline blood chemistry data, without the influence of anesthesia. We believe that Tai might be the youngest panda to cooperate for this blood draw procedure.

Mei and Tian are currently housed together during the day. It has been great to watch them engage in their silent play sessions, all over the yards, up and down trees, and then into the water to cool off. Tian has picked up many of his previously ignored toys and used them to solicit play from Mei Xiang!

Mei and Tian in a grottoBoth pandas have also amused us on these hot days, as they both try to share the same water-chilled grotto. On one recent day, Tian had settled in the grotto when Mei tried to enter. As she tried to squeeze in, Tian deliberately sprawled and spread his body out, further reducing the space available to Mei. Mei had to find another cool spot in the shade, as Tian lay flat on his back with each leg pointed in a different direction. It was not until much later that she claimed the grotto for herself, as Tian, yawning and stretching, was ready to look for some bamboo.

July 9: Happy Second Birthday, Tai Shan!

Tai and his birthday treatIt's hard to believe that two years have passed since that momentous day of Tai Shan's birth. We're so glad that so many people around the world have been able to watch him grow. Thanks to everyone who sent a card wishing him a happy birthday.

Today, we gave Tai a frozen birthday treat made by the nutrition department: apples, pears, and bamboo frozen in beet juice and water. After the toppled "2" startled him, he returned and enjoyed the treat for a while but eventually went inside—it's extremely hot today—and played with a baby pool.

July 6: Mei Is Not Pregnant

Mei XiangZoo scientists have confirmed that Mei Xiang is not pregnant. After she was articifically inseminated on April 4 and 5, she experienced a pseudo, or false, pregnancy.

Our scientists, veterinarians, and keepers have been keeping a close eye on Mei to determine if she was pregnant. We have been monitoring her hormone levels and behavior, conducting weekly ultrasound exams, and observing her behavior.

On June 28, Mei’s level of urinary progesterone (a hormone associated with pregnancy) began to decline. Upon reaching normal baseline levels, this decline would end in either the birth of a cub or the end of a pseudopregnancy. Based on this information, and not having seen a fetus during the ultrasound exams, Zoo researchers determined that Mei experienced a pseudopregnancy.

Female giant pandas almost always undergo a pseudopregnancy when they ovulate but fail to conceive. During a pseudopregnancy, hormonal changes and behaviors are identical to a true pregnancy, making it very difficult to determine if a giant panda is actually pregnant or not.

Zoo staff expect Mei Xiang to return to normal, both hormonally and behaviorally, in the coming days, which will mean an increase in appetite and activity level. Giant pandas ovulate once a year, so Zoo scientists will determine whether Mei should be considered for breeding in 2008.

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