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Baby Panda Watch On at Smithsonian National Zoo

Mei Xiang, the Smithsonian National Zoo's female Giant Panda, might be pregnant.

This photo of Mei was taken on June 9, 2005, exactly one month before she gave birth to her first cub, Tai Shan. She proved to be a very attentive, excellent mother. Photo by Ann Batdorf, NZP photographer, courtesy of the Smithsonian National Zoo.
This photo of Mei was taken on June 9, 2005, exactly one month before she gave birth to her first cub, Tai Shan. She proved to be a very attentive, excellent mother. Photo by Ann Batdorf, NZP photographer, courtesy of the Smithsonian National Zoo.
By Patch Editor Shaun Courtney

The panda team at the David M. Rubenstein Family Giant Panda Habitat has begun the official cubwatch for female panda Mei Xiang, according to a release on the zoo website.

Volunteer behavior watchers have been monitoring Mei Xiang 24 hours a day since Aug. 7. The female Giant Panda is on loan to the Smithsonian National Zoo from the China Wildlife Conservation Association.

In July, panda experts at the zoo first indicated that Mei Xiang might be pregnant, due to raised hormone level. She was artificially inseminated twice on March 30 after unsuccessful natural breeding with Tian Tian, the zoo's male panda.

Her behavior in recent weeks has included changes that could be associated with either a pseudopregnancy or actual pregnancy. 

According to the zoo website

"Keepers say that Mei's behavior is still very lethargic. She is spending more time in her den, sleeping and shredding bamboo for her nest, and eating less. She has also occasionally been cradling and grooming her kong toy and boomer ball while in her den."

She has given birth to two cubs, only one of which lived. Her surviving cub, Tai Shan, was born in 2005 and now lives in the Bifengxia Panda Base in China. Last fall she gave birth to a second cub that died a short week later. 

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