Mei Xiang & Tian Tian
“It is a happy and hopeful new year at the panda house. For the past two years Mei Xiang, the National Zoo’s female giant panda, has come into estrus (her ovulatory period) in January. The average female panda experiences estrus between March and May, and Mei Xiang was on this more typical schedule up until 2009, when she surprised us with a very early estrus.
When females are in estrus, it’s as though someone pushed a fast-forward button. They become very restless and pace, pausing to scent mark (rubbing their tails on surfaces) every few steps to announce their impending brief two-day window of fertility. One particular vocalization called a bleat is also heard during this time. A bleat is a contact call between pandas, heard when they interact with each other (or their keepers). Mei Xiang usually only emits this low, soft, sheepish sound when she’s ready to mate. In 2010 her first recorded bleat was followed by peak estrus, just 11 days later. This year her first bleat was heard 20 days ago!
Tian Tian is ready, and no guess work is required. Unlike Mei, Tian bleats all year round to the keepers on a daily basis to indicate his need for food or attention. As a male panda his male hormone testosterone rises in early winter in preparation for the breeding season. Tian becomes extremely restless and patrols his yard expectantly. If only it could rain female pandas! ”
I got this information from the National Zoo e-updates.
Entry filed under: Giant Pandas.