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Giant panda Update Feb 14, 2013

Over the next few months we'll be bringing you giant panda updates that will focus on Mei Xiang and Tian Tian, and the research Zoo scientists conduct related to giant pandas around the world. You'll be hearing from many different experts at the Zoo and the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute. The update below about Mei Xiang and Tian Tian was written by giant panda keeper Nicole MacCorkle.

We are starting to see slight changes in Mei Xiang's and Tian Tian's behavior, as well as some physical changes. There have not been any changes in Mei Xiang's hormones, yet, however. This information, taken together, and compared against previous years' data, tells us that breeding season will most likely be between mid-March and Mid-April, if things continue along the current trajectory. Keep in mind however, that this is only an estimate, and that a female giant panda's estrus can vary greatly from season to season, as Mei Xiang has shown us in the past. Our breeding plan for this year is the same as last year. We're entering this 2013 breeding season with renewed optimism. Mei Xiang has proven that an older female who hasn't had a cub in many years can indeed become pregnant. She also reminded us that she continues to be an excellent mother.

In the spirit of Valentine's Day watch a special video from Juan, a giant panda keeper at the Zoo, explain about breeding season at the Zoo! If you're looking for the perfect valentine for the love of your life, you can send them a giant panda Critter Cupid complete with the video, a beautiful photo and a personalized message. Valentines for your otteragous family, sea lion best friend, firefoxy single friend and your tiger "amour" are also available. Each Critter Cupid is $10 and all proceeds support the Zoo.