It is notoriously difficult to determine whether a panda is pregnant until after she’s given birth. The endangered animals – usually artificially inseminated after attempts to physically mate with a male partner inevitably fail – are prone to false pregnancies, during which the female gives off signs that she might be expecting, or might simply have a case of heartburn, or might simply have developed an interest in sprucing up her nest. Panda pregnancy watches are common the world over, as researchers wait with bated breath to confirm the arrival of a butterstick-sized wee one whose mere existence will drive up attendance at any zoo lucky enough to have one.
The US and UK are currently engaged in a panda-off, as scientists in both countries await a delivery from their possibly-pregnant giant pandas.
In one corner: Tian Tian, “the the UK’s sole and much-scrutinised female giant panda,” is showing signs of “moodiness” and “nesting,” and staff at the Edinburgh zoo are hopeful they will soon see the first giant panda to be born in the UK.
In the other corner, Mei Xiang, who only a year ago gave birth to a cub that died six days later. Staff and volunteers at the National Zoo in Washington, DC, have gone into 24-hour panda watch after the panda was spotted nesting and growing more lethargic. “All of these behavioral changes are consistent with a pseudopregnancy or pregnancy, and are behaviors that we have seen every year during this time,” the zoo said in a statement, not-so-subtly warning the panda-loving not to get their hopes up.
(Why do we care so much about these impossible-to-breed animals, then? If you’re asking that, it’s likely that you are a heartless and cold person unable to see for yourself from the above Gif an answer that is obvious to the rest of us.)
Advantage: we’ll let you know when one of these ladies gives birth.