Panda watch is on again in Washington, D.C.
A team of veterinarians, reproductive scientists and zookeepers at the Smithsonian National Zoo artificially inseminated giant panda Mei Xiang on Thursday.
The zoo has been watching Mei Xiang's behavior closely since she started showing behavioral changes on Feb. 17 that indicated she was almost ready to breed.
Female pandas only have a short window of time, about 24 to 72 hours, each year that they are able to become pregnant.
Since the window when a giant panda can conceive a cub is so short, the Zoo’s panda team immediately moved to perform an artificial insemination on Mei Xiang, the zoo said in a statement.
They artificially inseminated her using fresh and frozen semen from Tian Tian for the procedures.
Several months will pass before the panda team will know if the artificial inseminations were successful. Giant panda pregnancies and pseudopregnancies generally last between three and six months.
"There is no way to determine if a female is pregnant from hormone analysis and behavior alone. Mei Xiang’s hormones and behavior will mimic a pregnancy even if she is pseudopregnant, the zoo said. "The only definitive way to determine if she is pregnant is to see a developing fetus on an ultrasound."
Mei Xiang struggled to get pregnant for years after her son Tai Shan was born in 2005. She gave birth in 2012 to a cub who didn't make it. Bao Bao and a stillborn twin were born in 2013, and Bei Bei followed in 2015, along with a twin who didn't live long.