Baby Watch! Panda at Smithsonian's National Zoo Could Give Birth Any Day Now
A panda at Smithsonian's National Zoo in Washington, D.C., may be about to give birth!
Veterinarians reportedly detected fetal tissue during giant panda Mei Xiang's ultrasound on Friday morning, though it is "too early to determine if the tissue is a completely viable developing fetus," zoo officials note, adding that there is the potential that the fetus could be resorbed.
If the fetal tissue continues to develop (fingers crossed!), veterinarians estimate that 22-year-old Mei Xiang (pronounced: may-SHONG) could give birth within the next few days. The zoo's resident giant panda, who has given previously given birth to three surviving cubs, has been closely monitored since she was given artificial insemination in March.
While the panda house at the David M. Rubenstein Family Giant Panda Habitat is currently closed to provide quiet for Mei Xiang, viewers have been closely following her progress on the zoo's two panda cams, which also feature its other giant panda, Tian Tian.
"In the middle of a pandemic, this is a joyful moment we can all get excited about," Don Neiffer, chief veterinarian at the Smithsonian's National Zoo, said in a news release. "We are optimistic that very shortly she may give birth to a healthy cub or cubs. We're fortunate that Mei Xiang participated in the ultrasound allowing us to get sharp images and video. We're watching her closely and welcome everyone to watch with us on the panda cams."
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As part of the Smithsonian's National Zoo's cooperative breeding agreement with the China Wildlife Conservation Association, all panda cubs born at the zoo move to China when they are four years old. Mei Xiang's most recent cub Bei Bei made the 8,500-mile journey from Washington, DC, to Chengdu, China, in November 2019.
It is believed that there are only 1,800 giant pandas left in the wild. These gentle giants are classified as "vulnerable" by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources' (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species.