August 13, 2008

No New Cub for National Zoo Panda

Mei Xiang, a giant panda at the Smithsonian's National Zoo in Washington, won't be giving birth to a cub this year as initially thought, zoo staff say.

National Zoo staff said in a news release that while the female panda's declining urinary progesterone levels this July indicated a possible pregnancy, it appears the animal lost the developing fetus or has experienced a pseudo-pregnancy.

Veterinarians were unable to locate a fetus in the giant panda following those initial pregnancy suspicions despite the use of ultrasounds and hormone level checks. Giant panda fetuses are notoriously small, with a newborn panda measuring 5 inches in length.

The suspected pregnancy came after zoo officials artificially inseminated the panda with semen from Tian Tian, another giant panda at the zoo.

Zoo officials said any related problems with Mei Xiang are expected to pass during the next few days, adding they will reconsider using the female panda for fertilization in 2009.