National Zoo’s panda Mei Xiang showing possible signs of pregnancy

Smithsonian’s National Zoo veterinarians identified tissue consistent with fetal development during giant panda Mei Xiang’s ultrasound on Friday, Aug. 14.

If the fetal tissue continues to develop, veterinarians estimate she'll could give birth within the next few days!

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According to the zoo, veterinarians first detected the fetal tissue last week and have since noticed developing skeletal structure within the giant panda’s uterus.

There is a possibility that the 22-year-old Mei Xiang could resorb or miscarry the fetus.

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Mei Xiang (National Zoo)

“In the middle of a pandemic, this is a joyful moment we can all get excited about,” said Don Neiffer, chief veterinarian at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo who conducted the ultrasound. “We are optimistic that very shortly she may give birth to a healthy cub or cubs. We’re fortunate that Mei Xiang participated in the ultrasound allowing us to get sharp images and video. We’re watching her closely and welcome everyone to watch with us on the panda cams.”

(National Zoo)

Reproductive scientists from the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI) and zoo veterinarians performed an artificial insemination on Mei Xiang on March 22 with frozen semen collected from Tian Tian, who will be turning 23 on Aug. 27.

While the panda house is currently closed to provide peace and quiet for Mei Xiang, the panda team launched a 24-hour-a-day behavior watch on the panda cams as of Friday. As a public health precaution due to COVID-19, the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute has updated its hours and entry requirements.

To date, Mei Xiang has given birth to three surviving cubes: Tai Shan (tie-SHON), Bao Bao (BOW BOW) and Bei Bei (BAY BAY), who was the latest panda to return to China as part of cooperative breeding agreement. 

The zoo’s current cooperative breeding agreement expires in December 2020.