There is little that gets Washingtonians more excited than being told the National Zoo is on panda watch, so now that the word is out that the David M. Rubenstein Family Giant Panda habitat at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo was closed Sunday because of it, fingers, toes, and paws are crossed that it’s not a false alarm. After all, they don’t want anything to disturb Mei Xiang, the panda who is exhibiting the signs that could mean she’s pregnant, reports AP. They say, “Mei Xiang is building a nest near her den, has decreased appetite, is sleeping more, and is reacting to loud noises.”
Pandas can apparently have pseudopregnancies, perhaps similar to humans’ hysterical pregnancies, in which they do everything they would if they were pregnant. For the panda, however, hormone levels and behavior will return to normal eventually. As for which happens to be the case with Mei Xiang, only time will tell. While visitors to the National Zoo won’t be able to see her, the outdoor habitats and viewing areas for Bei Bei and Tian Tian, the other pandas, remain open. Bei Bei, who has his own Twitter account, is Mei Xiang’s son, who was born on Aug. 22, 2015. He is part of US-China relations panda diplomacy and sadly must be sent to the People’s Republic of China when he turns 4-years-old. Tian Tian is the male panda who has fathered all of Mei Xiang’s babies.
“At some point in the next several weeks, Mei Xiang will likely choose to stay inside all day and spend almost all of her time sleeping. She also may start spending extended periods of time in her den. In the past she has moved some of her toys and feeders in the den to cradle like she would a newborn cub. She also will become much more sensitive to noise,” reports the National Zoo.
Panda watch is a national pastime in the nation’s capital. Next month, she will be turning 20-years-old, having given birth to six cubs during her time at the zoo. Her son Tai Shan was the first panda cub to be born at the zoo and live more than a few days. When he was 4, he had to be sent back to China, per the agreement, crushing those who fell in love with the playful guy. A cub born in 2012 passed away after one week. In 2013, she gave birth to Bao Bao and the following day to another cub who was stillborn. And then, of course, came Bei Bei in 2015. Another cub was born several hours before him but that smaller one didn’t survive.
If you want to see the pandas but aren’t able to visit the National Zoo, you can watch them on the panda cam.