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National Zoo Inseminates Giant Panda Mei Xiang

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Scientists and veterinarians at the National Zoo have artificially inseminated their female giant panda Mei Xiang. The insemination was performed Saturday morning with a combination of fresh and frozen semen taken from the Zoo's male giant panda Tian Tian.

"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's Conservation Biology Institute, in a statement. "We have an extremely small window of opportunity to perform the procedures, which is why we monitor behavior and hormones so closely."

Scientists will monitor Mei Xiang's hormone levels over the coming months, and conduct ultrasounds to determine if she is pregnant. According to zoo officials, a pregnancy lasts between 95 and 160 days. Female giant pandas experience delayed implantation, during which the embryo does not develop until the final weeks of gestation.

The National Zoo's pandas have produced one surviving giant panda offspring, Tai Shan, who was born on July 9, 2005. He now lives in China. Mei Xiang gave birth to a female cub last September, but the cub died after a week due to lung and liver damage. Both cubs were born as the results of artificial insemination.

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