WASHINGTON (WMAL) – There hasn’t been a lot to look forward to in 2020, but here’s something: the giant panda cub at the National Zoo’s pregnant according to chief veterinarian Dr. Don Neiffer.
“If we ever collectively needed this to happen at the National Zoo and in the country and in the global arena, you know, she did us a real solid by getting pregnant,” Neiffer said with a chuckle.
Neiffer discovered the good news Friday morning when Mei Xiang let him do an ultrasound, and he found a fetus. The giant panda was artificially inseminated March 22 with frozen semen from another giant panda at the zoo, Tian Tian. Neiffer said they have been doing regular ultrasounds, and last week he saw what looked like fetal tissue. Neiffer told WMAL Friday’s ultra sound showed she was in fact pregnant.
“It was a pretty good morning,” Neiffer said.
He said he couldn’t detect a heartbeat, but that doesn’t mean anything other than that he couldn’t find it. He said the tissue looks healthy and there’s a good blood flow going to the uterus.
He didn’t see more than one fetus but said there are signs that lead him to believe she will give birth to twins.
The pregnancy is especially exciting for the zoo because Neiffer said Mei Xiang is on the older side to have a baby. Some pandas who are older than she is have had cubs, according to Neiffer, but they weren’t expecting her to get pregnant this year.
“It’s not that it’s a miracle. I don’t know what the odds were, but it’s certainly fortunate,” Neiffer said.
While things could always change, as of Friday afternoon Neiffer said it looked like Mei Xiang was likely to give birth sometime between Monday night and Thursday night.
This would be the first time in five years Washingtonians could celebrate the birth of a panda cub. Mei Xiang last gave birth Aug. 22, 2015 when she had Bei Bei and another cub who didn’t survive long after it was born.
Bei Bei was one of three surviving cubs Mei Xiang has given birth to over the years. Tai Shan was born in 2005, and Bao Bao was born in 2013.
All three are now living in China. The zoo’s agreement with the China Wildlife Conservation Association stipulates all cubs born at the zoo return to China when they reach 4 years old.
To keep an eye on the pregnancy watch, click here to see the panda cam.
Copyright 2020 by WMAL.com. All Rights Reserved. PHOTO: Smithsonian National Zoo