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The National Zoo announces its 22-year-old giant panda may be pregnant

August 15, 2020. Summarized by summa-bot.

WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 24: Mei Xiang (may-SHONG), the adult female who's name means "beautiful fragrance" eats an apple during snack time at the Smithsonian National Zoo. (Photo by Jonathan Newton / The Washington Post)

When Mei Xiang went in for an ultrasound on Friday, her results were shared around the world.

(CNN)When Mei Xiang went in for an ultrasound on Friday, her results were shared around the world.

The 22-year-old giant panda could deliver a cub in the next few days, the Smithsonian's National Zoo announced, after imaging revealed what appeared to be a fetus.

Mei Xiang has had a team of experts supporting her through the process since March, when they performed an artificial insemination.

"In the middle of a pandemic, this is a joyful moment we can all get excited about," said Don Neiffer, chief veterinarian at the Smithsonian's National Zoo who conducted the ultrasound.

When Mei Xiang's behavior changed in mid-March, from wandering the yard to playing in the water, the team knew it was time.

While it is too early to tell if the tissue shown in Friday's ultrasound is "a completely viable developing fetus as there is the potential that the fetus could be resorbed," veterinarians estimate Mei Xiang could give birth within the next few days, the zoo said in a statement Friday.

"This is another milestone in our long-standing and successful mission-critical 47-year giant panda conservation program and collaboration with Chinese colleagues to study, care for and help save the giant panda and its native habitat," the zoo's director, Steven Monfort said in March.

Mei Xiang has previously given birth to three surviving cubs who now live in China.

The zoo has encouraged the public to watch her progress on their 24-hour panda cam and hopes to make a special announcement soon.

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