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Bad News For Giant Panda Mei Xiang At National Zoo

Patch logo Patch 5 days ago Dan Taylor
a panda bear sitting in the grass: The National Zoo has released some unfortunate news about giant panda Mei Xiang. © Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images The National Zoo has released some unfortunate news about giant panda Mei Xiang.

WASHINGTON, DC — Sorry, panda fans: there will be no baby panda at the National Zoo anytime soon. The Smithsonian has just announced that Mei Xiang, who had been exhibiting signs of pregnancy in recent months, is not pregnant after all.

Scientists, veterinarians, and animal keepers at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute have determined that there is no baby in Mei Xiang's immediate future, and that she had been experiencing a pseudopregnancy over the last several months.

"Giant pandas' behavior and hormones mimic a pregnancy even if they are experiencing a pseudopregnancy," the Smithsonian said in a statement. "Reproductive scientists had been tracking Mei Xiang’s hormones since she was artificially inseminated March 28. Her levels of urinary progesterone began to rise in July indicating that she would give birth to a cub or experience the final stages of a pregnancy within 6 to 8 weeks."

However, further investigation revealed that her hormone levels are at baseline levels and her behavior is returning to normal. Also, veterinarians have not detected a developing fetus on ultrasounds, the Smithsonian notes.

The National Zoo closed the panda house after staff noticed behavioral changes Aug. 7, including sensitivity to noise. Veterinarians started conducting regular ultrasounds after that.

Because the Zoo has determined that this was a pseudopregnancy, the panda house will return to normal operating hours on Wednesday.

Mei Xiang has given birth to three surviving panda cubs: Bei Bei, Tai Shan, and Bao Bao. The latter two have returned to China, and Bei Bei will also be leaving in the coming months as part of an agreement with China that stipulates all cubs born at the zoo be sent to China when they are 4 years old.

Giant pandas are considered a "vulnerable" species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. There are an estimated 1,800 in the wild.

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