Zoo Artificially Inseminates Giant Panda

The National Zoo artificially inseminated a giant panda on Saturday.

A female panda by the name of Mei Xiang was inseminated using fresh and frozen sperm from her mate. Although the fresh specimen was collected on Saturday, the frozen semen has been on ice since 2003.

The artificial insemination was performed after officials at the National Zoo determined that the giant panda was ready to breed. Officials will have to wait a while to see if Mei Xiang becomes pregnant since the fetus won’t start developing until the last weeks of the gestation period.

The insemination was performed by vets from both the National Zoo and China Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda. The panda exhibit was reportedly closed while the procedure took place. It it scheduled to reopen on Sunday.

Dave Wildt heads up the Center for Species Survival at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute. He said in an official zoo release that vets had to artificially inseminate the giant panda since her mate was a “clueless breeder with flawed technique.” Previous attempts at breeding had failed.

“We are hopeful that our breeding efforts will be successful this year, and we’re encouraged by all the behaviors and hormonal data we’ve seen so far. We have an extremely small window of opportunity to perform the procedures, which is why we monitor behavior and hormones so closely,” Wildt explained.

Giant Panda Insemination

Should the procedure work, this won’t be the first time Mei Xiang has become a mother. She previously gave birth to a cub in 2005. Although she gave birth again last September, the baby later died due to lung and liver damage.

A pair of giant pandas recently made the trip from China all the way to Canada. The animals reportedly traveled aboard the 15-hour Panda Express, a special flight provided by FedEx Express Canada. After spending 30 days in quarantine, they will be on display at a zoo in Toronto.

Officials at the National Zoo will now wait patiently to see if the artificial insemination will result in a baby panda.

[Images via Wikimedia Commons]