National Zoo's panda may be pregnant

WASHINGTON (WJLA) -- Cross your fingers Washington - Mei Xiang may be pregnant!

The National Zoo may have a newborn baby panda in 40 to 55 days.

After being artificially inseminated twice in March 2013, the Zoo's female giant panda Mei Xiang may give birth in 40 to 55 days. However, this isn’t 100 percent.

Panda keeper Nicole Mckorkle says: "She is nest building ...She is a little less active than normally the rest of the year, so we are hopeful." Mei Xiang gave birth last September to a cub who only survived a week.

The zoo reports that Mei Xiang has had a secondary rise in urinary progesterone. The hormone's rise is a good indicator of one of two things - either a true pregnancy or a false one.

The reason it is so hard to tell for sure is that giant panda fetuses do not begin development until the very last weeks of gestation.

So even though Zoo veterinarians have been giving Mei Xiang regular ultrasounds when she allows them, it may be too early to see anything even if Mei Xiang were in fact pregnant. Zookeepers say we may not know anything for sure around until September.

The best measure scientists at the Zoo have right now is hormone analyses (like urinary progesterone) which they have been monitoring daily since her insemination.

Soon, the area of the David M. Rubenstein Family Giant Panda Habitat that is closest to Mei Xiang's den will close to give the possibly expectant mother some extra peace and quiet.

Visitors will still be able to see Mei Xiang when she chooses to go to her outdoor exhibit but curious panda enthusiasts will also be able to monitor Mei Xiang's activities inside her den through the online panda cam.