Zoo officials at the Smithsonian zoo were forced to artificially inseminate a 230-pound panda on Monday, after the mother of one failed to mate for a second time.
Mei Xiang was forced to undergo artificial insemination Monday: "Ever wondered what a giant panda AI is like? Find out today! We will live-tweet Mei Xiang's AI at 4 p.m." the National Zoo tweeted Monday afternoon.
Giant Panda's are endangered species. Mei Xiang and her mate TianTian produced baby cub Tai Shan, in 2005. However since, the pair has failed to reproduce prompting zoo officials to consider artificial insemination. Mei Xiang has been artificially inseminated eight times.
For this round the 13 year-old panda was inseminated twice, once on Sunday night and again on Monday. The first step involved anesthetizing Mei Xiang.
"There are 15-20 of the Zoo's scientists, animal keepers and vets in the room, waiting. Lots of equipment," Dr. Dave Wildt, who was part of the process, wrote on the zoo's Twitter. "The keepers and vets are carrying Mei on a tarp now with handles. It takes 8 people-she weighs about 230 lbs."
Because doctors were unable to get a fresh sample of sperm from TianTian, a frozen sample which was gathered in 2005 around the time of Tai Shan's birth was used.
"Dr. Desheng and Dr. Comizzoli are inserting a thin tube about 12 inches into Mei filled with sperm," the zoo tweeted explaining the process. "Dr. Desheng and Dr. Comizzoli are inserting a thin tube about 12 inches into Mei filled with sperm."
According to the zoo, female pandas can only breed during a 24-72 hour window, which gave officials little time.
"We've been monitoring Mei's hormones and watching the panda behavior for months now to determine the best time for an AI," Dr. Wildt tweeted. "When I got the phone call that now's the time, I dropped everything to get to the Zoo, just like everyone else here!"
After the procedure was over, the zoo posted a picture of a sleepy Mei Xiang recovering from anesthesia. If the procedure was a success the Smithsonian Zoo could have a new baby cub by the summer.