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Photo by PoPville flickr user Istvan Kerekes

Years ago we had a debate about the Red Pandas vs the Giant Pandas. So let’s just take all the pandas out of this debate – besides them what’s your favorite animal at the National Zoo?

I’m voting for the Orangutangs when they are using the sky bridge – or the giant fish in the amazon exhibit. And I do love the poison frogs, pictured here, in the Amazonia exhibit too.

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“Tickets are on sale now for the National Zoo’s 11th annual Brew at the Zoo, held on Thursday, July 23, 2015 from 6 to 9 p.m. The event, hosted by Friends of the National Zoo (FONZ), will feature more than 70 craft beers on tap for the beer tasting extravaganza, all in support of wildlife conservation. Local favorites such as Port City Brewing Company and Atlas Brew Works will be joined by popular microbreweries including DC Brau Brewing Company, Flying Dog Brewery, and BadWolf Brewing Company.

In addition to sampling great hops, guests will be able to purchase food from local favorites including Ledo’s Pizza, and popular food trucks. Guests will be able to mingle with new and old friends while playing lawn games and enjoying live music by Bachelor Boys Band. (more…)

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Photo by PoPville flickr user Eric P.

From the Smithsonian National Zoo yesterday afternoon:

“Mei Xiang had her first ultrasound this morning. Vets weren’t looking for a fetus at this early stage, they’re tracking changes in Mei’s reproductive tract and getting her comfortable having her belly touched.

Pandas experience something called a diapause, meaning that even if a female is pregnant the embryo doesn’t actually implant into the uterine wall (and start developing) until 17 to 20 days before she gives birth. The panda team will continue to perform ultrasounds—the only definitive way to tell if a panda is pregnant—throughout the summer as Mei chooses to participate. Today, Mei wasn’t very interested in participating in the ultrasound. After lying down in the training chute she sat up before vets had a good look at her uterus. They shifted Mei to her den where she could stand up. But again, after a few minutes, she decided to stop participating.

Our vets perform ultrasounds because female pandas’ hormones and behavior mimic a pregnancy even if they are not pregnant.”

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Photo of Tai Shan via Smithsonian’s National Zoo

Remember DC’s first panda cub Tai Shan? From the National Zoo:

“This giant panda update was written by biologist Laurie Thompson.

As part of the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute’s ongoing collaboration with our Chinese panda colleagues, panda keeper Becky Malinsky and I were able to spend 10 days visiting three giant panda bases earlier this spring…

Dujiangyan is a research facility closed to the public, and it is quiet and very beautiful. Our first panda cub Tai Shan lives there. (Though, he’s not a cub anymore.) We were able to visit with both Tai and his keeper Lui Yi. Tai Shan did not recognize our voices, but that was not unexpected. It has been 5 years since he moved. We were thrilled to see, that he seems to adore his keeper. And Pan Pan (who is Tai’s 30 year-old grandfather) lives right next door to Tai!”

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Photo by PoPville flickr user Jacques Arsenault

From the National Zoo:

“After carefully monitoring the behavior of both its giant pandas and female Mei Xiang’s hormones for weeks, the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute’s team of reproductive scientists, veterinarians and panda keepers performed two artificial inseminations within the last 24 hours. The first procedure started at 6 p.m. on April 26, and the second began at 7:30 this morning, April 27. Daily hormone reports showed Mei Xiang’s progesterone levels peaked Sunday morning, an indication that she was in estrus and able to become pregnant.

For the first time this year, scientists used semen collected from a giant panda living at the China Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda in Wolong, China. The chosen male panda, Hui Hui (pronounced “h-WEI h-WEI”), was determined to be one of the best genetic matches for Mei Xiang.

Although the Zoo’s male panda Tian Tian is not as genetically valuable as Mei Xiang, he is still important to the panda population. Scientists also used high-quality fresh semen collected from Tian Tian for the artificial inseminations. The first procedure used a combination of sperm from Hui Hui and Tian Tian. The second procedure also used thawed sperm from Hui Hui and sperm refrigerated overnight from Tian Tian. If Mei Xiang gives birth, scientists will use a DNA test to determine which male sired the cub. Mei Xiang was put under general anesthesia for the non-surgical artificial insemination(s). Each procedure took about an hour. The Zoo live-streamed portions of the first procedure on Twitter using Perioscope and live-posted to Instagram using #PandaStory. (more…)

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Photo Credit: Connor Mallon, Smithsonian’s National Zoo

From the National Zoo:

“Our 18-week-old male bear cubs need names—and we’re asking for your help! We’ve teamed up with Univision’s ¡Despierta America! to select names that reflect Andean bears’ cultural significance to the Quechua and Aymara—the indigenous communities of the bears’ native region. Vote now.”

“Voting ends March 22 and winning names will be announced March 26. You can vote for your favorite names once a day!

Cub #1 is rambunctious and seems to need Mom’s attention a bit more than his brother.

Larusiri(lah-roo-SEE-ree): means “giggly” (Aymara)
Mayni (MY-nee): means “unique” (Aymara)
Kusisqa (coo-SEES-kah): means “happy” (Aymara)

Cub #2 is playful and likes to wrestle but is more laid back than Cub #1.

Tusuq (too-SOOK): means “dancer” (Quechua)
Muniri (moo-NEE-ree): means “loving” (Quechua)
Wayna (WHY-nah): means “young” (Quechua)”

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Photo by PoPville flickr user angela n.

From the National Zoo:

“Bao Bao has graduated from a panda cub to a juvenile panda!

In the wild pandas separate from their mothers around 18 months old—exactly Bao Bao’s age. Keepers have been closely following the signs that mother and cub were ready to separate for months. They saw Mei Xiang actively discourage Bao Bao from nursing, and spending more time away from her, which was expected as a female in the wild would be preparing to breed again. As these signs became more pronounced, they prepared for the final transition, and even spent nights in the panda house to make it as smooth as possible. Bao Bao now lives in her own area of the giant panda habitat, eats significantly more bamboo and solid foods (like sweet potato), and is mastering training behaviors just like her parents.

We know that as humans it can be hard to watch a mother and cub separate, but pandas are solitary animals in the wild. In order for Bao Bao to continue to thrive and become an important member of the giant panda population in human care, weaning is a natural and necessary process. We’ll be sure to keep you updated on Bao Bao and Mei Xiang’s progress!”

They grow up so fast!

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From the Smithsonian National Zoo:

“It looks like Tian Tian had a mini picnic today. But that’s not a snow cone he’s munching on, it’s a piece of sugarcane—a very special treat for our giant pandas.

Giant pandas enjoy cold weather and our bears will choose to spend time outside in it.”