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Friday, May 7, 2010

Hopes dashed: National Zoo's panda isn't pregnant

WASHINGTON – The National Zoo says its female giant panda is not pregnant after all.

The zoo says a final ultrasound and hormone analysis Tuesday confirmed Mei Xiang (may-SHONG) was experiencing a pseudo pregnancy over the past several months. Pandas' hormone levels and behavior can indicate they're pregnant when they're not.

Volunteers at the zoo began a 24-hour pregnancy watch Friday as Mei Xiang's hormone levels began to level out. This is the fifth time she's experienced a pseudo pregnancy.

In 2005, Mei Xiang gave birth to her only cub, Tai Shan (TY-shawn), who was sent to a breeding program in China earlier this year.

This may have been the zoo's last chance to breed Mei Xiang and male Tian Tian (tee-YEN tee-YEN). A 10-year loan for them expires at the end of the year and they could be returned to China.

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