Pets & Animals

Panda-monium! National Zoo tries to find out if Mei Xiang is really pregnant

Mei Xiang is used to the spotlight. In addition to being one of the stars of the National Zoo, the 17-year-old panda is also mom to another celebrity resident — 2-year-old cub Bao Bao.

And she just might have another one on the way!

Then again, she might not. There's something else Mei Xiang is famous for — false pregnancies. She's had five in the past.

Michael Reynolds / EPA
Giant panda Mei Xiang sleeps indoors at Smithsonian's National Zoological Park in Washington, DC, USA, 11 August 2015. Scientists have confirmed a secondary rise in giant panda Mei Xiang's urinary progesterone levels. The rise started 20 July and indicates that she will either have a cub or experience the end of a pseudopregnancy within 30 to 50 days. Mei Xiang was artificially inseminated in late April, with frozen sperm collected from Hui Hui, a panda living in China, and fresh sperm collected from the National Zoo's Tian Tian.

So is she or isn't she this time? That's what experts are trying to determine now, and it's not an easy task.

In April, she was artificially inseminated twice, and she's certainly showing signs, such as rising hormone levels.

But that's not enough to know if this is the real deal. In fact, even ultrasounds haven't been able to provide the answer.

"The challenge with pandas is that the fetus is so tiny you can only see it almost at the end of its development," the National Zoo's director for animal care sciences, Brandie Smith, told TODAY.

Still, Mei's behavior is promising.

"She takes bamboo into her den and she shreds it into this nice little comfy cloud of a nest," Smith explained.

Right now, only time will tell.

"[She] will give birth to a cub, or experience the final stages of a pseudopregnancy in 30 to 50 days," the National Zoo revealed in a caption on Instagram.

We've got our fingers crossed! After all, as one young zoo-goer told TODAY, "Pandas are really cute, and baby pandas are the cutest!"

Follow Ree Hines on Twitter and Google+.

0:00
 
0:00
Your video begins in
0:00
TOP