After much speculation at the Smithsonian National Zoo that female panda Mei Xiang was pregnant, the zoo has confirmed that she is not. In an Instagram post, they revealed:
🐼 #MeiXiang will not give birth to a cub this year. She was experiencing a pseudopregnancy during the past several months. Endocrinologists had been tracking Mei Xiang’s hormones since she was artificially inseminated March 1. Her levels of urinary progesterone began to rise in early May, indicating that she would give birth to a cub, or experience the final stages of a pregnancy in 40 to 50 days. Her hormones returned to normal or “baseline” levels July 1, but she did not give birth indicating that she likely has been experiencing a pseudopregnancy. A final ultrasound today, July 5 confirmed that there is no developing fetus.The panda team had also been tracking Mei Xiang’s behavior closely during the past several weeks. Specially-trained volunteers with Friends of the National Zoo started monitoring her 24-hours-a-day via the panda cams July 1, watching for specific behaviors associated with pregnancy and pseudopregnancy. Giant pandas’ behavior and hormones mimic a pregnancy even if they are experiencing a pseudopregnancy. Veterinarians conducted ultrasounds to track changes in Mei Xiang’s uterus and to try to detect a developing fetus. Giant panda pregnancies and pseudopregnancies can last between three and six months. Mei Xiang’s denning behaviors will decrease, and staff expect her to return to her normal routine within a couple of weeks. The panda house will reopen today, July 5 and return to normal operating hours of 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Visitors are also able to see the pandas on the panda cams, which are live on the Zoo’s website 24-hours-a-day, 7-days-a-week
In preparation that she was pregnant, the National Zoo had closed down the Panda house to provide Mei Xiang with a private, stress-free environment.