Giant Panda Pregnancy Is False Alarm At National Zoo

8:14 PM, Apr 28, 2010   |    comments
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WASHINGTON, DC  (WUSA) --  Mei Xiang had everyone fooled. The giant panda at the National Zoo was showing all the signs that she was about to give birth, but after one last ultrasound and hormone analysis, veterinarians said it was a false alarm.  It was Mei Xiang's fifth pseudo pregnancy.

It wasn't all bad. The Zoo reopened the Panda enclosure that had been shut down for a few days to give Mei Xiang some quiet time in case she was about to be a mom.

Kindergarten teacher Eli Phillips and his wife Cari drove down from Vermont to see the pandas over their spring break, seeing a panda cub would  have been a bonus.

"I'm just thrilled to see these amazing animals," Cari Phillips said.  "There are so few of them left."

"For some reason, kids are really into them, and I've gotten excited about them because of them," Eli Phillips said.  "I'm just thrilled to see a panda in person for the first time."

Mikey Lyna from Boston roped his grandparents into a trip to DC just to see the panda. His brother and sister went with their mom to go visit relatives in South Carolina.

Right on cue, Tian Tian, walked over to the window within a few feet of Lyna.

"That's so cool,"he said. "I've never seen one before."

While Tian Tian entertained the crowd in the newly reopened exhibit, Mei Xiang was resting comfortably in isolation.  When her appetite and hormone levels return to normal, she'll be allowed back in the yard.

As for hopes of a cub, Senior Curator Brandie Smith says they're already planning for next year.

"We were so excited about the prospect of adding a new cub to the world," Smith said. There are only 1,600 left. "We'll try again and hopefully this time next year we'll be celebrating a birthday," Smith says.

Mei Xiang has been a mom before. Her first cub, Tai Shan, was born in 2005.  He's back in China now, entertaining zoo visitors there.    The contract for the National Zoo's two remaining pandas expires this year. Officials are working to get it extended.

Written by Audrey Barnes

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