“Really missed everyone~ Have you guys been well? It feels like I haven’t been active for a while~ I’ve finally finished filming for Law of The Jungle~ Seriously will be the most precious memory of my life. 5 days without touching my phone, do you know that feeling T_T? There’s no line at Solomon Islands so I didn’t get to repost this on Weibo, sorry~ Tsinghai, let’s go together! Haha, I’ll show you guys the pictures of me who have not washed my face and showered for four days and three nights, don’t laugh at me~ @西藏昌都人韩红”
Mei Xiang, the Zoo’s 18-year-old female giant panda, is showing behavioral and physical signs of estrus. She has been increasingly restless lately and has been calling to the Zoo’s resident male, Tian Tian, who has also spent a lot of time lately looking for Mei Xiang and calling for her. Mei Xiang has been pacing and has also been sloshing about in a pool of water in her enclosure—typical of both males and females ready to breed. Aside from behavioral changes, scientists have also noticed that Mei Xiang’s external genital area is swollen and pink—another indicator of estrus. Her urine samples, collected daily, also show a rise in her estrogen levels which indicates she is close to ovulation.
Panda breeding can often feel like a race against time, as female giant pandas are able to conceive for barely 36 hours each year in the spring. In that brief window, panda staff hope to give Mei Xiang and Tian Tian an opportunity to breed naturally. “The pandas haven’t successfully bred in the past, but we still give them the opportunity,” says Laurie Thompson, assistant curator of giant pandas. Scientists also plan to artificially inseminate Mei Xiang with Tian Tian’s semen.
Then, it’s several months of waiting to determine if she becomes pregnant. Because giant panda fetuses are tiny and only develop toward the end of gestation, they aren’t detected in an ultrasound until a week or so before they’re born. In addition, pandas, like several other species, can undergo pseudo or false pregnancies, where they do everything they would if they were pregnant—sleeping and resting more as well as building a nest of bamboo in preparation for a cub. At the end of a pseudopregnancy, however, hormone levels return to baseline and females’ energy levels and behavior return to normal.
Although Mei Xiang has experienced several pseudopregnancies in the past, she has also produced three surviving cubs—Tai Shan, born in July of 2005; Bao Bao, born in August of 2013; and Bei Bei, born in August of 2015. Because Mei Xiang went into estrus a little later than usual this year, albeit still within the typical March to May timeframe, if she were to become pregnant, her offspring would most likely be born around the end of September.
Zoo staff are currently preparing for the arrival of their panda colleagues from China, who will assist the Zoo’s reproductive scientists with the artificial insemination process.
"Luhan is not someone who prioritizes his personal gain."
PD Tian Mei: If the original home was pleasant, no one would want to leave! I’ve heard people say that Luhan is a very simple boy!
PD Tian Mei: Recently a movie made an offer to Luhan for the lead role with a huge sum of money, but he didn’t accept it. Looks like he really needs rest, and this also shows that Luhan is not someone who prioritizes his personal gain. Wish you the best!
Note: Tian Mei is a director for several CCTV shows.
Weighing in at 17 ½ pounds, 4-month-old giant panda cub Bei Bei made his media debut Wednesday at the Smithsonian National Zoo. Keepers say the cub, born in August, is developmentally on track and ahead of his older sister Bao Bao in some milestones. The cub will make his public debut on Jan. 16.
“He’s actually walking a lot sooner than his older sister did,” said panda keeper Juan Rodriguez. “He’s about 4 or so pounds heavier than his sister was at this same age, so he’s definitely a much larger bear and developing a lot faster than his sister did.”
Bei Bei, pronounced “Bay-Bay,” was named by first lady Michelle Obama and China’s first lady, Madame Peng Liyuan, in September. The name means “precious treasure.”
At Tuesday’s debut, the cub was shown off to the media, then Bei Bei cuddled with mom Mei Xiang while dad Tian Tian enjoyed a few rounds of bamboo breakfast.
And in case you’re wondering if being panda keeper to Bei Bei is as good as it sounds, Rodriguez said it is. “You never get tired of it … it’s always a very unique and special moment.”
Animal keeper Nicole MacCorkle holds Bei Bei, Washington’s National Zoo’s newest panda and offspring of Mei Xiang and Tian Tian. During an audience with a small group of reporters he was so relaxed that he fell asleep and drooled on an examination table. At nearly 4 months old, Bei Bei weighs more than 17 pounds and is gaining about a pound a week. Picture: AP Photo/Andrew Harnik