Fans of the giant pandas at the Smithsonian's National Zoo can once again access the panda cams, sponsored by the Ford Motor Company Fund. The cams went dark for upgrades May 30 but will begin streaming live uninterrupted video today at noon.
The panda-cam system upgrades were designed to maximize the viewer experience. Cam watchers can now stream live video of Mei Xiang and Tian Tian on any computer, tablet or mobile device without having to refresh the Web page. Mei Xiang's den cameras have also been upgraded to high-definition cameras. Panda fans the around the world can watch her more clearly than ever before as she builds her nest.
The Zoo's panda team conducts behavior research using the panda cams, and remotely watches both bears. The team will monitor Mei's behavior especially closely a secondary rise in her urinary progesterone is detected. That rise will indicate the end of the breeding season is near, and Mei Xiang will experience a pseudopregnancy or give birth within 40 to 50 days. She will then spend increasingly more time in her den, and the panda cams will be the primary way for the panda team and panda fans alike to watch her.
Veterinarians are conducting ultrasounds (ultrasound video) regularly as Mei Xiang chooses to participate in them to monitor changes in her reproductive tract and evaluate for evidence of a fetus. Giant panda fetuses do not start developing until the final weeks of gestation, making it difficult to definitively determine if there is a pregnancy. It is still too early to detect a fetus.
Visitors to the David M. Rubenstein Family Giant Panda Habitat will see the renovated panda-cam station with new, larger flat-screen monitors in addition to the pandas. Both pandas are on exhibit as usual today. Mei Xiang will receive a special panda-friendly frozen-fruit cake today at 1:30 p.m. to celebrate her 15th birthday. Tian will turn 16 years old next month.