On August 21, giant panda Mei Xiang, who lives at the Smithsonian National Zoo, gave birth to a baby cub. The pregnancy and birth was huge for the Smithsonian, staffers of which performed an artificial insemination on Mei Xiang with frozen semen collected from Tian Tian, a male panda who lives there. Mei helped usher in a series of firsts for conservationists and for the Smithsonian: at 22 years old, she’s the oldest giant panda in the United States and, according to the Smithsonian, the second oldest giant panda who has been documented to give birth. She’s also the first panda in the United States to have a successful artificial insemination and a subsequent successful birth. Go Mei Xiang!
Panda pregnancies are very different from human pregnancies. Apparently, panda pregnancies are irregular in length and can last anywhere from 95 to 160 days. Ultrasounds can’t detect a panda fetus in the panda mom’s belly until just about two weeks before they’re ready to give birth. So, while Mei Xiang had begun to exhibit behaviors consistent with panda pregnancy or pseudopregnancy in July, they weren’t able to confirm that Mei Xiang was pregnant until very soon before she gave birth.
Most pregnancies are extremely exciting, and Mei Xiang’s is no different. But the ultrasound video of the pregnancy, which was published on the Smithsonian website and on their YouTube, is somehow extremely soothing. It’s like a 35 second clip of zen. In times like these, where good news is hard to find, take a moment and enjoy some ultrasound bliss.