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Paws crossed for panda birth at Smithsonian zoo

Mei Xiang, a 22-year-old panda who came to the us in 2000, could deliver a cub-or cubs-in subsequent few days, the Smithsonian’s National Zoo in Washington has announced, after imaging revealed what seemed to be a fetus.

News that Mei Xiang could also be pregnant has brought a joyful sign of hope to the US capital that’s gripped by the brutal COVID-19 pandemic.

If successful, “she would be the oldest panda within the us to offer birth”, Brandie Smith, deputy director of the National Zoo and head of animal care, told China Daily.

The record for the oldest panda to offer birth is held by a 23-year-old female named Hai Zi, who gave birth at the China Conservation and research facility for the enormous Panda in Sichuan province in July 2017.

Reproductive scientists from the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute and zoo veterinarians performed the synthetic insemination of Mei Xiang in late March, with frozen semen collected from Tian Tian, Mei Xiang’s companion who also came to the zoo nearly 20 years ago, the zoo said during a statement.

ZOO Ultrasound baby panda

Early on Friday, the zoo said that an ultrasound revealed tissue that indicates a baby panda might be growing, though it’s too early to work out if the tissue may be a completely viable developing fetus.

“If the fetal tissue continues to develop, veterinarians estimate that Mei Xiang could give birth within subsequent few days,” it said.

“In the center of an epidemic , this is often a joyful moment we will all get excited about,” said Don Neiffer, the zoo’s chief veterinarian, who conducted the ultrasound.

“We are optimistic that very shortly she may give birth to a healthy cub or cubs,” Neiffer said. “We’re watching her closely and welcome everyone to observe with us on the panda cams.”

Smith, however, said that Mei Xiang has “a very small chance of giving birth” but veterinarians were always looking forward to a healthy cub or cubs.

Mei Xiang has had twins twice before. In both cases just one cub survived, which isn’t unusual, Neiffer said.

“Mei Xiang always keeps us on our toes. Most years, the question is whether or not she features a pseudopregnancy or the important thing. Today, the q is whether or not she’ll GIVE BIRTH (!!!) during a few days or simply reabsorb the fetal tissue into her body,” tweeted Rachel Kurzius, senior editor of DCist.com, a news portal in Washington D.C.

In an email interview, Smith said zookeepers have maintained regular contact with Chinese colleagues during the pandemic, talking about Mei Xiang’s health and well-being.

“We communicate with our colleagues in China regularly. we’ve been talking about Mei Xiang, mostly conversations about her general health and well-being,” she said.

“We knew that, at this age, she had a really small chance of parturition , but we were always hopeful,” Smith said.

In the decade since 2005, Mei Xiang had born to 3 surviving cubs, Tai Shan, Bao Bao and Bei Bei. The trio have all returned to China in accordance with agreements between China and therefore the US, consistent with zoo sources.

“We are especially grateful for our Chinese colleagues because they need such a lot experience with panda cubs and that they are great partners and always willing to supply assistance and share information,” Smith said.

The zoo was closed to visitors in March to contain the spread of coronavirus but reopened on July 24 with new safety measures, including requiring visitors to order passes online before time and capping the amount of individuals allowed in directly .

“The panda house has remained closed because we’ve been on birth watch,” Smith said.

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