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National Zoo: No giant panda cub this year

The Washington Post
July 05. 2018 7:21PM

WASHINGTON — Alas, there will be no giant panda cub this year.

It would have been nice in this season of heat and hot air, but the National Zoo said Thursday that experts have determined that the female giant panda, Mei Xiang, is not pregnant.

It’s the second year in a row that Mei Xiang has had a false pregnancy.

Mei Xiang will turn 20 this month and is near the end of her reproductive life cycle, the zoo said, but pregnancy was still possible for her.

She was artificially inseminated on March 1, and last week the panda house was closed in anticipation and to maintain a quiet atmosphere. The panda gestation period usually lasts 90 to 185 days.

Mei Xiang, as usual, had shown all the signs of a pregnancy — nesting, eating less, showing sensitivity to loud noise.

But giant panda reproduction is mysterious. Females can exhibit many signs of pregnancy without being pregnant. And experts often must wait until the panda’s cycle ends — with or without a cub.

Mei went on 24-hour-a-day cub watch, via the panda cams, July 1.

“A final ultrasound (Thursday) confirmed that there is no developing fetus,” the zoo said in a statement.

Mei Xiang, whose name means “beautiful fragrance,” has given birth to three surviving cubs: Tai Shan, Bao Bao and Bei Bei.


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