Second Giant Panda Cub Born to Mei Xiang at National Zoo

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  • Mei Xiang, the National Zoo's female giant panda, gives birth to a cub Sunday, September 16 at 10:46 pm. National Zoo staff could hear the cub but had not yet seen it as Mei had built a substantial nest in her den. This is Mei Xiang and Tian Tian's second cub born as the result of artificial insemination. The chances of 14 year old Mei Xiang conceiving a cub after five consecutive pseudo pregnancies since 2007 was estimated to be less than 10 percent. The female panda had been spending almost all her time in her den so keepers and volunteers had monitored her 24 hours-a-day via the panda cams from inside the David M. Rubenstein Family Giant Panda Habitat. Keepers began to prepare for a birth after they observed Mei Xiang spending extended periods of time body licking and cradling toys. Veterinarians will perform the first physical exam after Mei Xiang and the cub have had time to bond in a few weeks. The new mother will most likely not come out of her den, eat, or drink, for at least a week.
  • This is Mei Xiang's second cub, after Tai Shan, who was born in 2005. Mei Xiang was artificially inseminated twice in April with sperm collected and frozen from 15 year old Tian Tian in 2005. Dr. Li Desheng performed the inseminations alongside a team of reproductive physiologists and veterinarians from the National Zoo. Zoo scientists were able to confirm on August 20 that Mei Xiang's levels of urinary progesterone, a hormone associated with pregnancy and pseudo pregnancy, were rising. That rise indicated that it would be about 40 to 50 days until Mei Xiang gave birth to a cub or experienced the end of a pseudo pregnancy. During that time veterinarians performed ultrasounds on Mei Xiang when she would cooperate for them. They also saw more pronounced behaviors associated with both pregnancy and pseudo pregnancy. She spent more and more time exhibiting those behaviors until a few hours before she gave birth.


  • Tian Tian
  • Mei Xiang
  • Desheng, Li
  • Tai Shan
  • National Zoological Park (U.S.) Panda House
  • National Zoological Park (U.S.)


Chronology of Smithsonian History


  • Pandamonium!, Smithsonian Torch, 17 September 2012
  • Zookeepers maintain a 24-hour watch over Washington's newest panda, by Michael E. Ruane, The Washington Post, 19 September 2012, Local section, p. 1.

Contact information

Institutional History Division, Smithsonian Institution Archives, 600 Maryland Avenue, SW, Washington, D.C. 20024-2520,


September 16, 2012


  • Pandas
  • Births
  • Giant panda



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