After two unsuccessful meetings between resident San Diego Zoo pandas Bai Yun and Gao Gao staff at the zoo have jumped into action to artificially inseminate Bai Yun. Veterinarians, reproductive physiologists and animal care staff were on hand to help with the procedure.
23 year old Bai Yun has produced six cubs in her time at the San Diego Zoo. Her two thirty minute breeding opportunities with Bai Yun didn’t appear to go well. When hormone tests indicated Bai Yun has already ovulated keepers decided artificial insemination was the best option.
The small window of opportunity presented by giant pandas mean staff do not have long to make these decisions. oestrus only occurs once a year and may last for just 48-72 hours.
Thawed sperm from the Frozen Zoo® was used in the procedure. Giant panda Shi Shi was the donor of the sperm. He was Bai Yuns first partner. His sperm was used in an artificial insemination in 1999 that led to the birth of the first panda cub in San Diego. Shi Shi moved back to China in 2003 for his retirement. He passed away in 2008 but still contributes to the breeding program.
Tests will be run on Bai Yun’s urine for the next month by scientists from the San Diego Institute for Conservation Research. They hope to know within a month if Bai Yun has conceived.
A weird feat in panda reproductive biology may mean won’t know if Bai Yuns fetus has implanted for three months after this. Giant pandas are rountinely known to delay implantation until triggered by the environment. It is not until after implantation that the egg begins to develop.
An impending birth would be predicted due to behavioural, hormonal and anatomical changes in Bai Yun.
Giant pandas are classified as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nation so the zoos successful breeding program is important to ensure their continued survival.
Photo Credit: San Diego Zoo