The Smithsonian National Zoo has closed the panda house because Mei Xiang is exhibiting signs on being pregnant. According to a press release from the Smithsonian National Zoo, Mei Xiang's keepers are not able to confirm whether or not she's actually pregnant, but she's "exhibiting expected, normal behaviors after the secondary hormone rise that are in line with both a pregnancy and pseudo, or false, pregnancy." However, the zoo added, Mei Xiang is showing signs associated with panda pregnancy, including a loss of appetite, nest building and reacting to loud noises.
Mei Xiang has been pregnant before, although she's had several false pregnancies in the past. Mei Xiang, who will turn 20 in July, has given birth to several pandas, three of whom have survived infancy- Tian Shan, Bao Bao and Bei Bei. Bao Bao and Tian Shan have since been relocated to China, as part of an agreement with between the U.S. and China.
Zookeepers attempted to artificially inseminate Mei Xiang on March 1, using semen from Tian Tian, another Giant Panda at the zoo. Pandas are only able to conceive during a 24-72 hour window every year and zookeepers won't be able to tell if it's a real pregnancy for some time. According to an earlier statement from the Smithsonian National Zoo, pregnancies and psuedo-pregnancies last between three to six months. The only definitive way to tell if Mei Xiang is really pregnant is with an ultrasound.
Although nothing's certain yet, we're keeping our paws crossed for another panda cub. For those who want to catch a glimpse of Bei Bei and Tian Tian, the zoo's other two resident pandas, you can see them in their outdoor enclosure before 2 p.m., before they're escorted indoors due to the hot weather. If you can't get to the zoo in time, please enjoy this Panda Cam.