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A giant female panda is in heat at the National Zoo, and now officials are watching her closely.
Mei Xiang, 18, is already a mother to three cubs born at the zoo, but that doesn’t mean zookeepers are averse to breeding her again.
As the panda enters estrus, a period of time when her egg will be released — typically between 24 and 72 hours — the zoo will monitor her behavior to see how she is acting toward Tian Tian, the zoo’s giant male panda, according to The Washington Post.
“If they are both acting interested in one another, the keepers will give them an opportunity to breed naturally,” Jen Zoon, a zoo spokeswoman, said.
Giant pandas are solitary animals and are kept in their own respective enclosures so if the opportunity arises, a mesh or “howdy” door will open so that the pair can procreate.
If not, no worries.
“Mei Xiang and Tian Tian have never bred naturally successfully, but that doesn’t mean we don’t try,” Zoon said to the Post.
If they don’t show signs of interacting, she said, Mei Xiang will be artificially inseminated with semen from Tian Tian.