A pair of Pandas at the Berlin Zoo might soon become proud parents, whether they do the deed naturally or not.
Germany’s Berlin Zoo is home to two giant pandas, Meng Meng and Jiao Qing. They’re a favorite among visitors for being both adorable and playful, but they haven’t been seen as much lately due to a very special time for pandas.
On April 5th, zookeepers determined that Meng Meng was fertile.
Pandas are notoriously finicky breeders as the female of the species is only receptive and fertile for just 72 hours every spring. This is a nightmare for zookeepers as they must constantly verify the female panda’s hormone levels to see when they should take action.
The first sign that it was that special time was when Meng Meng started making some “high-pitched squeaking” sounds, according to zoo director Dr. Andreas Knieriem. “For several days now, our two pandas have been expressing a clear interest in one another,” said Dr. Knieriem. “[Meng Meng’s] hormone levels also confirm that she is in her three-day fertile period. At 8 a.m. on 5 April, we let the two bears meet in the flesh for the very first time.”
Preparations for Meng Meng and Jiao Qing’s first “date” began many weeks before the two first met. The first step was to send the Berlin Zoo’s department head to China to speak with Panda breeding experts. Then a pair of Chinese experts flew back to Berlin to oversee preparations.
For the Pandas, they were slowly introduced to each other's pens in the Panda Gardens exhibit so they could get used to each others’ scent. Then they were visually shown to each other through a glass sliding door.
Finally, the doors were opened on April 5th and the two pandas were able to finally interact. Several attempts at copulation were made, but the pair weren’t quite able to finish the deal, as they say.
However, that doesn’t mean these pandas aren’t going to have a baby. Berlin zookeepers are ready to step in and artificially inseminate Meng Meng if Jiao Qing isn’t quite able to perform.