Panda Pregnancy Watch, Panda House Now Closed to Visitors

Photo by PoPville flickr user ep_jhu

From the National Zoo:

We are still in full panda pregnancy watch and the panda house is now closed to visitors. Mei is especially sensitive to noise, so we keep the panda house as quiet as possible to reduce possible noise-related stress. Virtual Zoo visitors can see Mei Xiang and Tian Tian on the panda cams. Tian Tian will also be in his yard during the day from early morning until about noon.

Mei has been less interested in food lately. She has almost completely stopped eating bamboo; she mostly just shreds it for her nest now. She chooses to not eat much of the produce we give her—like pears and sweet potatoes. These are signs that we are approaching the end of a pregnancy or pseudopregnancy. Over the holiday weekend, keepers started to see her cradle some of her toys and begin body licking. She will most likely spend more time doing those things as we get closer to the end of a pregnancy or pseudopregnancy.

Although Mei has been sleeping a lot more, she continues to diligently build her nest. It is much larger than it was last week. She dragged two very large bamboo stalks into her den. They are so big that they stick out into her indoor habitat, which makes cleaning in the morning more challenging.

19 Comment

  • PANDA watch. the mood is tense.

  • As cute and pretty as they are, I’m still convinced that anything that has this terrible time adapting should probably not be encouraged to propagate the species.

    • I understand that logic. However for a species (Humans) that have so successfully obliterated other perfectly resilient species to the point of complete extinction, I think it’s a good thing we help maintain a elegant and frankly adorable species from succumbing to evolution and it’s obliteration.

      Who knows, perhaps it will be the Pandas that take over the world and not the apes.

      • Like I said, they look all cute and cuddly, but there’s nothing honorable or charming about saving a species that, even in a perfect world without human destruction, can’t even take care of itself. Bamboo has absolutely no nutritional value, they’re bodies are made to eat meat and they don’t, they have to be seriously coerced to have sex, they won’t migrate for better food…the list goes on. There are far more deserving animals that deserve attention, that CAN make it, if given half a chance.

        People are just delaying the inevitable. I know this sounds cold.

        • This makes no sense. There is a reason why pandas are the way they are. Why they eat almost exclusively bamboo, why they are slow to reproduce. It’s not like they had a choice between a meat or bamboo diet and just randomly chose bamboo. They probably adapted to bamboo forest to avoid competition for food with other predators. They actually have several adaptions to help them get the most nutrition out of the bamboo: they eat different parts of the plant, they have larger jaws that other bear species in Asia, they have a special 6th “thumb” to help them pull shoots and leaves off the bamboo plant, and their digestive tracts have certain bacteria to help them break down the bamboo, something is found in the intestines of herbivores, not omnivores.

          They have a specialized niche in their environment: bamboo forests. Their habitat is being altered by human activity, that is why they are threatened with extinction. They can’t migrate to other food sources because they have adapted to eat bamboo. Does this mean they deserve to be extinct?

          And I highly doubt pandas have be coaxed into reproducing in the wild or else there wouldn’t be any pandas to begin with. They seemed to have survived just fine “in a perfect world” on their own for thousands of years before their habitat started being destroyed by people.

          • Very well said.

          • I’m not denying they’ve had some physical adaptations to eating bamboo, but their structure is far more designed to eat meat. It wasn’t because of humans, I can assure you, that they started doing this. They’ve been doing this for millions of years. And yes, some part of their dwindling numbers is due to humans, but it also has a lot to do with the fact that they aren’t good at breeding. They have one cub every two years, and because of their diet, they have to leave their den to go get food when the cub is very young, unlike other bears that have large stores of fat.

            All those things aside, it costs at least 3x as much to keep a panda alive in a zoo as it does the next animal down the chain. And really, how successful has captive breeding been? Well this story seems to show it.

            But hey, it’s cute and cuddly.

          • @Meg: there’s a difference between a species not being able to survive in captivity v. survive in the wild. And the argument can be made that from a financial standpoint, it doesn’t make sense for a zoo to invest money in breeding pandas when it is mostly unsuccessful.

            But again, there’s a reason why pandas don’t reproduce often. Many other animals at the top of their food chains don’t have a lot of offspring: pandas, eagles, gorillas, and blue whales for example. Two many predators diminishes the abundance of prey. It’s not because they aren’t good at breeding. It just makes it more difficult for their population to recover after decreasing so dramatically because of habitat destruction.

            Whether or not is a good investment for zoos to get involved in breeding pandas in captivity is another argument altogether.

        • I think they’re incredibly boring animals, the most overrated in the zoo.

    • Haters gonna hate.

  • At this stage, why are we not sure whether this is a pregnancy or a pseudopregnancy?

    • dcjourno

      Apparently she’s showing signs of pregnancy — uterine wall is thickening, she’s nesting, etc. — but they haven’t yet been able to get a visual of the fetus on an ultrasound. So they’re still not sure if it’s the real deal yet.

    • that panda is having my baby. That’s why.

  • panda inebriation watch, more like.

  • Soon she’s gonna start having a hankering for Ben and Jerrys.

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