For Release: July 6, 2005
John Gibbons (202) 633-3083 or (202) 391-4231
Peper Long (202) 633-3082 or (202) 391-2471
Giant Panda Update
National Zoo veterinarians are conducting weekly ultrasounds on the Zoo's female giant panda Mei Xiang (may-SHONG) to monitor any development in her uterus and perhaps detect a fetus if she is indeed pregnant. However, due to the nature of pseudopregnancies, veterinarians stress that it is difficult to determine pregnancies in giant pandas.
So far, the ultrasounds have not shown clear evidence of a fetus. Because panda fetuses do not start developing until the last weeks of a gestation period, Zoo veterinarians say they are not surprised that they have not seen a fetus at this stage.
Using food and praise as incentive for her cooperation, keepers at the National Zoo have trained Mei Xiang to lie down for ultrasound examinationsusing no anesthesia. This enables Zoo veterinarians to monitor Mei Xiang often during her gestation period, providing critical data on the physiology of these animals. There are only three female giant pandas in the world that are trained to undergo this procedure in this way.
Mei Xiang is exhibiting behaviors associated with pregnancy or pseudopregnancy including object cradling, nest building and increased lethargy. Zoo scientists say that these behaviorscoupled with data from weekly urinary hormone analysesare indicators that she will soon either be a first-time mother or that her pseudopregnancy has come to an end.
Zoo volunteers at the Fujifilm Giant Panda Habitat, where Mei Xiang and her mate Tian Tian (t-YEN t-YEN) are on exhibit, are on a 24-hour behavior watch.
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Note to Editors: A digital photo and video of an ultrasound procedure on Mei Xiang are available by contacting the Zoo's office of public affairs.