We could be expecting another giant ball of love at the National Zoo!
The panda team is gearing up for another climactic breeding season, the National Zoo announced Wednesday.
D.C.’s prized giant panda Mei Xiang moaned at Tian Tian, the zoo’s 19-year-old male, on Saturday — but not out of satisfaction. This “vocalization” means the mother of three is not quite ready to make a new furry friend, the zoo said.
But Mei Xiang slept in, ignored her bamboo breakfast and wandered around “scent-marking,” which means breeding season could be approaching.
The changes in behavior are signs the giant panda is reaching the short window of the year she can be impregnated.
“Peak estrus” is a 24 to 72 hour period female pandas can conceive, while males can breed for several months.
Tian Tian's behavior also shows he's ready to make love. The giant panda couldn't keep his eyes off Mei Xiang this weekend. He even brought his toys and food to the window, so he could watch his suitor as he ate. He was pacing along the fence, restless, making noises at Mei Xiang, the zoo said.
You may remember last year, Tian Tian wasn't in the mood when Mei Xiang was ready.
Keepers at the zoo will begin to watch the panda's behavior closely, until Mei Xiang ovulates. Then, scientists will perform an artificial insemination.
Mei Xiang's path to parenthood has been tough.
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.
Good luck bringing another bundle of joy into the world!