Keeping the expectations of a curious public in check while caring for a giant panda that may or may not be pregnant can’t be an easy task for the National Zoo crew.
Panda mom Mei Xiang, who previously gave birth in 2005, could be pregnant again. From a local standpoint, the palpable curiosity surrounding Mei Xiang’s possible bun feels almost tabloidy: Is she? Isn’t she? Who’s the father?(No scandal here. After she failed to mate with her companion, Tian Tian, Mei Xiang was artificially inseminated..)
From the sound of Post reporter Pat Sullivan’s story, the panda keepers at the zoo are taking pains to ensure both Mei Xiang and red panda Shama, who is likely pregnant, give birth to healthy cubs. Here’s a glimpse into the [possible] maternity feeding process:
So within arm’s reach, under the guidance of two nutritionists, about 10 young staff members practiced making panda formula — part puppy-milk formula, part human infant formula (Enfamil), part distilled water, all strained at least three times to eliminate any clumps that could get caught in a bottle’s nipple and be aspirated by the tiny newborn. No blender is used because it can break down important fats. It will be heated in a warm-water bath because microwaves can also alter the milk’s chemistry.
This ordeal makes a human’s nine month stint — usually carried out without any support staff — look like a cakewalk. But since panda gestation usually lasts 90 to 185 days, perhaps we’ll know sooner rather than later whether the pregnancy rumors are true. (View the latest panda photos here.)
Supposing Mei Xiang is actually pregnant, what would you name her cub? Tell us using #PandaWatch and we’ll post your responses here. Bonus points go to any names that are fitting of news and trends of 2011 — the challenge is not picking anything too depressing.