For Release: March 10, 2005
Peper Long (202) 673-0206
John Gibbons (202) 673-4840
2005 Giant Panda Mating Season Begins at the National Zoo's Fujifilm Giant Panda Habitat
The spring season for giant panda mating has come early to the Smithsonian's National Zoo. Female Mei Xiang (may SHONG) and male Tian Tian (t-YEN t-YEN) attempted to mate this morning. Timing is critical and often unpredictable for this delicate processgiant pandas have one breeding season per year with only a day or two of actual mating.
During mating, the pandas will be indoors at the Fujifilm Giant Panda Habitat, which will be closed to the public and press. The pandas will be brought together and separated several times each day in a series of mating encounters.
Zoo staff will carefully observe each mating and, if no complete or satisfactory copulation occurs, Zoo scientists and veterinarians will perform a nonsurgical artificial insemination, with both pandas under anesthesia. First, Zoo scientists will collect sperm from Tian Tian; next, the sperm will be inserted directly into Mei Xiang's uterus.
This year, for the first time, Zoo staff separated this pair of pandas prior to mating. On March 4, after recording an increase in behavior associated with mating (such as scent-marking), the pandas were separated.
Scientists at the National Zoo and elsewhere think separating the pandas creates a greater and sustained interest in mating.