Giant Panda Cubs at the National Zoo
1972: Ling-Ling and Hsing-Hsing (shing-shing), the National Zoo’s first pair of giant pandas, arrived from China in 1972 as a gift to the American people to commemorate President Nixon’s historic visit to China.
- During their 20 years together at the National Zoo, this panda pair produced five cubs; none of the cubs survived.
1983: After a decade of trial and error, Ling-Ling and Hsing-Hsing mated for the first time. Ling-Ling was also artificially inseminated with semen from Chia-Chia (cha cha), a giant panda in London. On July 21, Ling-Ling gave birth to a male cub that died three hours later of pneumonia. Using DNA analysis, National Zoo scientists determined the cub was Hsing-Hsing’s.
1984–1989: The pair went on to produce four more cubs during this time. One cub was stillborn in 1984. Twins were born in 1987—one died quickly from a lack of oxygen and the other succumbed to an infection four days later. The last cub, born in 1989, died of pneumonia 23 hours after birth.
1983–1991: In addition to the five pregnancies, Ling-Ling also experienced many pseudopregnancies during this time.
- 1992: Ling-Ling died suddenly on December 30, of heart failure; she was 23.
- 1999: Hsing-Hsing, suffering from several debilitating, age-related diseases, including terminal kidney disease, was euthanized on November 28, 1999; he was 28.
- 2000: On December 6, the National Zoo’s second pair of giant pandas, Mei Xiang and Tian Tian, arrived in Washington, D.C. The pair is on loan for 10 years from the Chinese government in exchange for $10 million, raised from private donors, including Fujifilm, our lead corporate sponsor, and Animal Planet, our exclusive media partner.
- 2003: Mei Xiang and Tian Tian mated briefly in 2003, but no pregnancy resulted.
- 2004: The pandas attempted to mate, but did not. National Zoo scientists then vaginally inseminated Mei Xiang with Tian Tian's sperm during a non-anesthesia procedure. Mei Xiang had a pseudopregnancy.
- 2005: On March 11, National Zoo scientists and veterinarians artificially inseminated Mei Xiang, after it was determined no successful natural mating occurred between the pandas during the previous 24 hours. On July 9 at 3:41 a.m. Mei Xiang gave birth to the Zoo’s first surviving panda cub—Tai Shan.
2007: On April 4 and 5, National Zoo scientists and veterinarians performed two artificial inseminations on Mei Xiang, using semen collected from Gao Gao, the adult male at the San Diego Zoo. The procedures were unsuccessful and Mei Xiang had a pseudopregnancy.
2008: On March 19, National Zoo scientists and veterinarians performed an artificial insemination on Mei Xiang, using semen from Tian Tian. The procedures were unsuccessful and it is believed that Mei Xiang experienced either a pseudopregnancy or the loss of a developing fetus.
2009: On January 17, National Zoo scientists artificially inseminated Mei Xiang, using a very good quality semen sample from Tian Tian. The procedures were unsuccessful and Mei Xiang had a pseudopregnancy.
- 2010: On January 11, National Zoo scientists artificially inseminated Mei Xiang, using a very high-quality semen sample from Tian Tian. The panda pregnancy watch for a possible cub will begin 90 days after Mei Xiang was inseminated. Panda gestation can last anywhere between 90 and 180 days.