Prepare for Panda-monium

The San Diego Zoo announces its giant panda Bai Yun is pregnant

By R. Stickney
|  Wednesday, Jul 29, 2009  |  Updated 9:46 AM PDT
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Adorable Zoo Babies: Roosevelt Elk Calf

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Cha-ching. Sure it's good for the species but let's not forget what a baby panda could mean for San Diego's failing economy.

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Using a thermal camera and an ultrasound, zoo staff spotted images confirming the San Diego Zoo’s giant panda Bai Yun is expecting a cub.

Ultrasound video taken Monday clearly showed a tiny little panda, conceived naturally in April, moving its paws and tucking its head in.

There’s also a chance of a double dose of panda-monium. While making the announcement about the viable fetus Monday, staff said they have detected a second heartbeat but are not sure about its future since it’s not developing as quickly as baby #1.

Twice in the past six years, Bai Yun carried two babies at times during her pregnancies only to have one survive.

It may be smaller than a stick of butter, but a panda cub holds a power unlike other baby animals. Zoo visitors and animal lovers all over the world will check in on mother and cub as the pregnancy progresses via the zoo’s only access, an online web camera.

If you visit the zoo, don’t expect to see Bai Yun. She’s in an off-exhibit habitat. If a cub is born, Bai Yun and the cub will remain in the den for four to five months.

San Diego was caught up in panda-mania in 1999 when Hua Mei, Bai Yun’s first club, was the first giant panda cub to be conceived by artificial insemination and the first American-born panda cub to survive to adulthood.

She is now in a breeding program in China along with her brother, Mei Sheng, who was born in San Diego in 2003 through natural breeding. Two of Bai Yun's other offspring, Su Lin and Zhen Zhen, born in 2005 and 2007 respectively, remain at the San Diego Zoo.

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