WASHINGTON, DC (WUSA)--Early Saturday morning a team of vets and scientists at the Smithsonian National Zoo artificially inseminated Mei Xiang the female Giant Panda.
Zoo officials say scientists detected a rise in urinary estrogens in the Panda female on March 26. This rise and her behaviors indicated that Mei Xiang was in estrus and ready to breed.
Officials say the team, including Tang Chunxiang the assistant director and chief veterinarian of the China Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda at Wolong performed the procedure after keepers determined no competent breeding between Mei Xiang and the Zoo's male giant panda Tian Tian (tee-YEN tee-YEN) had occurred overnight.
"We are hopeful that our breeding efforts will be successful this year, and we're encouraged by all the behaviors and hormonal data we've seen so far," said Dave Wildt, head of the Center for Species Survival at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute. "We have an extremely small window of opportunity to perform the procedures, which is why we monitor behavior and hormones so closely."
Zoo scientists say Mei Xiang was put under general anesthesia for the artificial insemination and will likely undergo a second procedure later today.
Zoo scientists will monitor Mei Xiang's hormone levels in the coming months and conduct ultrasounds to determine if she is pregnant. A pregnancy lasts between 95 and 160 days.