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National Zoo: Mei Xiang Won't Give Birth Anytime Soon

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Doctors at the National Zoo say resident panda Mei Xiang will not give birth anytime soon.
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Doctors at the National Zoo say resident panda Mei Xiang will not give birth anytime soon.

By Kavitha Cardoza

The National Zoo says its giant female panda Mei Xiang will not be giving birth soon.

"Mei Xiang is definitely not pregnant, much to our disappointment," says Dr. Don Moore, associate director for Animal Care Sciences at the National Zoo, who says a final ultrasound and hormone analysis confirmed it. This is the fifth time Mei Xiong has experienced whats called a "pseudo pregnancy".

A pseudo pregnancy is when even though the sperm doesn't take with the egg, everything continues just as if it had.

"The hormones change, the physical body changes and the behaviors change in the same way they would in a real pregnancy," says Moore.

Moore says it's an "enormous effort" to help a panda get pregnant, requiring a lot of collaboration among the keepers, the veterinarians and the science teams.

"Everybody's disappointed," he says. "I was going around this morning and saying how sorry I was that all of their effort was for naught this year."

MeiXiang and her partner Tian Tian are on loan from China. The agreement expires at the end of the year, and the bears could be returned at that time.

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