Zoo Atlanta today announced that its 15-year-old giant panda Lun Lun is pregnant, confirming that the artificial insemination (AI) that Western University of Health Sciences’ College of Veterinary Medicine Assistant Professor of Physiology David Kersey, PhD, took part in was successful.
Based on the size of the fetus observed in an ultrasound conducted on June 30, 2013, the zoo’s Animal Management and Veterinary Teams estimate that a birth could take place in mid-July. The cub would be the first giant panda born in the U.S. this year, according to Zoo Atlanta officials.
In February 2013, Kersey, a giant panda reproduction expert since 2001 who has been consulting with Zoo Atlanta, began receiving Lun Lun’s urine sample to track hormonal changes that would indicate fertility.
“The entire period we are talking about is less than a few days,” Kersey said. “From the time I determine she is fertile, it’s even less than that.”
In March, Kersey detected the hormonal changes he was looking for and traveled to Atlanta to provide on-site analysis. On March 21 he detected ovulation, at which time he and colleagues performed an AI procedure. They performed another one on March 22.
AI was done within eight hours of each other. Zoo Atlanta used frozen semen that was on reserve for the first AI and followed that up with fresh semen before the 40-hour window ended.
“Although her estrual behaviors were less than impressive, everything about the AI went really well,” Kersey said. “The detection of a conceptus plus heart beat with ultrasound is fantastic news. Not only does it mean that we timed and performed the AI correctly, but there will be another giant panda – which is always good news.”
Kersey said he will continue to monitor the hormones every few days, and the veterinarians at Zoo Atlanta will conduct ultrasound evaluations to track the progress of the cub so that a refined due date can be attained in the coming week.
Click here to view Zoo Atlanta’s announcement that Lun Lun is expecting.