Fingers Crossed. A Panda Preggers at the National Zoo???! | At the Smithsonian | Smithsonian
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Fingers Crossed. A Panda Preggers at the National Zoo???!

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National Zoo darling Mei Xiang, who recently celebrated her tenth birthday, has kept mum about her maternal status. On March 20, Mei was anesthetized and artificially inseminated. She has since coyly toyed with her adoring public’s hopes for the pitter patter of panda paws.

Over the course of her 2008 estrus cycle, Mei has developed some unusual behaviors. She has taken up a nest building hobby, sporting her 21st century eco-ethics by using bamboo for building material. In the past month, she has been increasingly lethargic and developed disinterest in her favorite foods—and when a panda doesn’t leap at the opportunity to snarf down a fruitcicle, something’s amiss. (Potential baby daddy Tian Tian was unavailable for comment, and has yet to be seen running to the grocery store at 2 a.m. to pick up pickles and Rocky Road ice cream for his wife.)

She has also recently been observed cradling Kong, her favorite toy. Are these the actions of a mother-to-be or a panda who has caught on to the fact that certain behaviors get human attendants really excited?

Coupled with her high progesterone levels, these outward signs are promising. Unfortunately, they are not surefire indicators that Mei Xiang is expecting. Female pandas ride the same hormonal roller coaster whether or not they’re pregnant and fetal development occurs late in the gestational cycle, making it difficult to determine if she is pregnant.

So what do you think: is she or isn’t she? Take our poll! If you’re right, you win the satisfaction that you made a good guess. Bragging rights are included only if your friends are willing to put up with you. C’mon, give it a whirl!

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About Jesse Rhodes

Jesse Rhodes is an editorial assistant for Smithsonian magazine. Before he became an editorial assistant, Jesse worked at the Library of Congress Publishing Office, where he was a contributor to the Library of Congress World War II Companion.

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