Infertility & The Panda

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Mei Xiang is a giant panda at the National Zoo and she’s been having difficulty conceiving.  According to Zoo officials, her hormone levels rose and she was prepared for breeding with Tian Tian.  But it didn’t happen, so zoo officials ended up artificially inseminating her over the weekend.  What’s next for Mei Xiang is blood work and a series of ultrasounds.

But here’s a really interesting fact about panda pregnancy, which lasts from 3-5 months: the embryo doesn’t implant until a few weeks before birth and the fetus doesn’t start to develop until the very last weeks of gestation.  What I am wondering is if that means that she has to wait 2+ months for her beta?  The two week wait seems like a piece of cake in comparison.

Another new thing I learned is that the Zoo has a panda sperm bank and semen is available for use even after a panda’s death.  The Zoo currently has 60 samples from 5 different male pandas.  Pandas are an endangered species, so the sperm bank allows for attempts to continue the survival of the species.

Very interesting to me, because the area of posthumous reproduction law is an emerging legal field.  The legal issues for humans aren’t really of concern for pandas…for example, pandas who reproduce after death don’t have to worry about their children receiving an inheritance or social security benefits.  These are all very real issues that humans face when reproducing after death.

Read more about Mei Xiang here.