Area Panda Almost Certainly Pregnant

Mei Xiang may give birth in next week or so.
Photograph courtesy Smithsonian's National Zoo.

Veterinarians detected what appears to be a fetus during an ultrasound examination of giant panda Mei Xiang at Smithsonian’s National Zoo Wednesday.

The ultrasound image.

Mei Xiang could deliver “early next week, or possibly in early September,” the zoo says in a press release, adding: “There is a substantial possibility that Mei Xiang could resorb or miscarry a fetus.”

Panda fetuses are very small and difficult to detect via ultrasound. This fetus is about 4 centimeters long, the zoo says. Zoo director Dennis Kelly says he is “cautiously optimistic” about the pregnancy.

The zoo announced earlier this month that Mei Xiang may be pregnant. Mei Xiang gave birth to Tai Shan, a.k.a. Butterstick, in 2005, to a cub that died in 2012, and to Bao Bao in 2013. She has also had several pseudopregnancies.

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Andrew Beaujon joined Washingtonian in late 2014. He was previously the news editor and lead media reporter for the Poynter Institute, arts editor for the now completely vanished, and managing editor of Washington City Paper. He lives in Del Ray.