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Mei Xiang

News from the David M. Rubenstein Family Giant Panda Habitat

Giant pandas are black and white bears that live in temperate-zone bamboo forests in central China. Among the best recognized—but rarest—animals in the world, they have come to symbolize endangered species and conservation efforts. There are as few as 1,864 giant pandas in the wild. More than 300 pandas live in zoos and breeding centers around the world; most of these pandas are in China.

Giant pandas Mei Xiang and Tian Tian are at the National Zoo under a Giant Panda Cooperative Research and Breeding Agreement, signed in January 2011, between the Zoo and the China Wildlife Conservation Association. This extends the Zoo’s giant panda program through 2015. Mei and Tian are the focus of an ambitious research, conservation, and breeding program designed to preserve this endangered species.

Seeing Pandas at the Zoo

  • The panda house at the David M. Rubenstein Family Giant Panda Habitat is open to the public from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
  • Please arrive early. Long lines require earlier cut-off times to ensure those waiting can enter the panda house before it closes. If crowds are heavy, the line may close as early as 4 p.m.
  • Flash photography and video are welcome, but please refrain from setting up tripods, or other stationary equipment.

On high visitation days, Asia Trail will be open to one-way traffic only. Visitors will enter Asia Trail at the sloth bear exhibit, near the Connecticut Avenue pedestrian entrance. Those visiting Bao Bao will be asked to line up outside the giant panda house in front of the panda yards. For the safety of our guests, animals, and staff, visitors will be allowed into the panda house in small groups to avoid overcrowding.

Visitors will enter the panda house from the west entrance, by the red panda exhibit, and exit the east entrance. After leaving the panda house, visitors will exit Asia Trail near Panda Plaza.

June 26

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This panda update was written by keeper Nicole MacCorkle.

We still don't know if Mei Xiang is pregnant or pseudopregnant. (Remember her hormones and behavior will mimic a pregnancy even if she is pseudopregnant!) If you have been regularly watching the panda cams, you may have noticed that Mei Xiang has pulled some bamboo into her den over the last few days. However, it is likely too early to call this true "nest-building." It's been two months since the artificial inseminations. Historically, Mei usually doesn't start nest-building so soon after an artificial insemination. In the past when we saw this behavior from Mei for a few days, or even a few weeks, she often dashed our hopes by defecating in the den. If she defecates in the den, Mei Xiang herself doesn't consider the area to be a true nest yet. A panda would never soil her nest once established, so that remains our true test. Another explanation could simply be that Mei Xiang wanted to enjoy the peace and quiet of her den. Either way, we simply have to wait a little while longer to find out if Mei Xiang considers this to be a real nest. And then, we still have to wait to find out if she's pregnant because a female would build a nest if she's pregnant or pseudopregnant! In the meantime, it couldn't hurt to think positively and keep our fingers crossed, right?!

In the next habitat over, Bao Bao got some special enrichment on Tuesday when it was extremely hot. Our giant pandas always have access to chilled areas and misters in their yards to keep them cool, and their indoor enclosures are air conditioned. But, sometimes keepers will give them enrichment items to help keep them cool as well. Bao Bao got a bear-sized ice cube, which she promptly rubbed all over herself. The panda cams caught her playing with the ice.

Read previous panda updates.