WASHINGTON — Officials with the National Zoo said Monday that veterinarians artificially inseminated its female giant panda, Mei Xiang, on Sunday morning.
Professionals used frozen semen from the zoo’s male giant panda, Tian Tian.
Signs had indicated that the pandas were entering breeding season, the zoo said in a statement. And female giant pandas have only a 24-to-72-hour period each year when they can get pregnant,
“Mei Xiang is 21 and near the end of her reproductive life cycle, but there are pandas who have had cubs when they were older than she is now,” the zoo said in a statement.
The zoo is closed because of the coronavirus. But “zoo life continues despite” the virus, said spokeswoman Pamela Baker-Masson.
“Due to the successful banking of semen from Tian Tian over the past several years . . . the team used frozen semen instead of fresh to reduce overall staff contact time,” the zoo statement said.
It won’t be clear if the panda is pregnant, or if she’s had what’s known as a false pregnancy, for several months.
Mei Xiang has delivered three cubs that have survived and has had at least eight false pregnancies.
Giant pandas are listed as “vulnerable” in the wild, where there are about 1,800. The Zoo’s giant pandas are on loan from China. The loan agreement expires Dec. 7.