Panda Hormones, Hopes Rise Once More

By Carissa DiMargo
|  Tuesday, May 17, 2011  |  Updated 3:05 PM EDT
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Tai Shan Celebrates 4th Birthday

National Zoo

Please, pandas. Please.

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Tai Shan Celebrates 4th Birthday

Onlookers gawk over Tai Shan as he nibbles on his birthday "cake."
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It's that time of year once more: the time that scientists at the National Zoo have detected a secondary rise in urinary progesterone levels in Mei Xiang -- also known as a primary rise in all of our hopes and dreams for a new panda cub.

"This hormone rise indicates that it should be 40 to 50 days before Mei Xiang either gives birth to a cub or comes to the end of a pseudopregnancy, or false pregnancy, which is common in giant pandas," said the zoo in a release.

We're trying to remain positive. It's just that 2005's birth of our beloved Butterstick seems a long, long way off at this point.

As she did last year, in January Mei Xiang went into heat unusually early. Zoo staff artificially inseminated Mei Xiang on both Jan. 29 and 30. Since then, they've been testing her hormones weekly.

"Because panda fetuses do not start developing until the last weeks of a gestation period, Zoo veterinarians indicate that it may be too early to detect a fetus -- the only way to be certain that Mei Xiang is, in fact, pregnant," the zoo said in its release.

Oh pandas, why must you always be so tricky?


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