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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.”

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Photo Credit: Janice Sveda, Smithsonian’s National Zoo

From the Smithsonian’s National Zoo:

“Who are Shredder, Clinger, and Slash? 80s hair band? Nope. Rusty the red panda’s 7-month-old cubs! When the trio of brothers were just shy of two months old, keepers stepped in to raise them. Thanks to the efforts of animal care staff, they’re growing and gaining independence! See photos and read more.

Want red pandas to return to the National Zoo? Learn how you can help.”

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Photo via Smithsonian’s National Zoo

It’s like the Oscars for gianta pandas…

The big news shared by the Zoo over the weekend:

“The giant panda zoo awards were announced yesterday and Bao Bao won silver Panda Personality of 2014, and the David M. Rubenstein Family Giant Panda Habitat won bronze Favorite panda enclosure outside of China!”

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Photos: Devin Murphy/Smithsonian’s National Zoo

From the Smithsonian’s National Zoo:

“Today was Bao Bao’s first time playing in the snow outside! And she was quite the little snow panda. She spent her morning tumbling down the hill in her yard, climbing and sliding down trees and pouncing on her mom Mei Xiang!

Giant pandas live in mountainous bamboo forests in China, during the winter it can be very cold and snowy.”

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UPDATE – It gets better: