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Mei Xiang Ultrasound Video Clip

National Zoo
Veterinarians Viewed Surprising Giant Panda Ultrasound at Smithsonian’s National Zoo For the first time at the National Zoo, veterinarians detected something new during an ultrasound procedure this morning on giant panda Mei Xiang. They believe it is a developing giant panda fetus. Based on the size of the fetus, which is about four centimeters, veterinarians estimate that Mei Xiang could give birth early next week, or possibly in early September. In past years, veterinarians have only detected changes to Mei Xiang’s uterus, which occurs for both a pregnancy and pseudopregnancy. Historically, and since Aug. 7 of this year, Mei Xiang declined participating in ultrasounds at this stage, so it was a surprise when she responded to the panda keepers’ calls this morning. There is a substantial possibility that Mei Xiang could resorb or miscarry a fetus. Scientists do not fully understand why some mammals resorb fetuses. The Zoo’s panda team is monitoring Mei Xiang through the Zoo’s panda cams. She is continuing to spend more time in her den, sleeping more, body licking and cradling objects—all behaviors consistent with a pregnancy or pseudopregnancy. “Today, we are cautiously optimistic,” said Dennis Kelly, director of the Smithsonian’s National Zoo. “We want a healthy cub for all the right conservation reasons. I am excited, but I have to say that we were prepared for a cub even before this morning’s ultrasound. Our expert team of keepers, scientists and veterinarians are going to do exactly what they are trained to do and I’ll just ask everyone to remain positive with us.” Reproductive scientists from the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI) artificially inseminated Mei Xiang April 26 and 27. For the first time, scientists used semen collected from a giant panda named Hui Hui (h-WEI h-WEI). He lives at the China Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda in Wolong and was determined to be one of the best genetic matches for Mei Xiang. A cub by Mei Xiang and Hui Hui would be very genetically valuable, helping to preserve the genetic diversity of the panda population in human care. The sample from Hui Hui was frozen and flown from China to the cryopreservation bank at the National Zoo. Scientists also used high-quality fresh semen collected from the Zoo’s male giant panda, Tian Tian (t-YEN t-YEN), for the artificial inseminations. DNA analysis will determine the sire of the cub. SCBI scientists confirmed that a secondary rise in giant panda Mei Xiang’s urinary progesterone levels began July 20. This signaled that Mei Xiang would either have a cub or experience the end of a pseudopregnancy within 30 to 50 days. At that time, Mei Xiang also began exhibiting behaviors consistent with pregnancy or pseudopregnancy. She started nest building, chose to spend more time in her den, slept more and ate less. In the past week, she also spent time body licking and cradling toys. The panda team expects Mei Xiang to spend almost all of her time in her den for the next several weeks. The David M. Rubenstein Family Giant Panda Habitat will close completely until further notice to provide quiet for Mei Xiang. She will continue to be visible on the panda cams. Visitors can also see Tian Tian and 2-year-old Bao Bao (BOW-BOW), in their outdoor enclosures and on the panda cams. With the support of Friends of the National Zoo volunteers who operate the panda cam, the panda team will begin the 24hour watch. Mei Xiang has given birth to two surviving cubs: Tai Shan (tie-SHON) and Bao Bao. Tai Shan was born July 9, 2005, and he now lives in China. Bao Bao was born Aug. 23, 2013. She will live at the Zoo until she turns 4; at that time, she will also go to live in China and, eventually, enter the giant panda breeding program. Tai Shan and Bao Bao were born as the result of artificial inseminations. Bao Bao will turn two this Sunday, Aug. 23. Interested visitors may watch her receive a frozen treat in her outdoor yard at 10 a.m. The Zoo will continue to provide daily updates on Mei Xiang through its @SmithsonianZoo Instagram account using #PandaStory, and the Giant Panda e-newsletter.

Orangutan Caring Week: Husbandry Training with Iris

National Zoo
Open wide! Using positive reinforcement training, keepers ask the Zoo’s orangutans to open their mouths on cue. They can inspect the animals’ teeth for any chips and cracks, and even give them a brush from time to time. Iris has healthy chompers!

FIELD IN FOCUS | Mahouts and Elephants | 360

National Zoo
Smithsonian scientists work with Myanmar’s forestry department and mahouts to study wild elephants. Mahouts are elephant keepers, trainers and trackers. They can find elephants through the dense forest and are experts in elephant behavior from caring for their own elephants. The elephants the mahouts care for are mostly former work elephants, used as draft animals for logging. Together, scientists, the forestry department and mahouts, find and fit wild elephants with GPS collars. The data they collect will help protect elephants and their habitat.

Happy 2nd Birthday, Moke! (Party)

National Zoo
On April 15, our confident little western lowland gorilla, Moke, marked yet another big milestone—his 2nd birthday! Keeper Alex Reddy reflected on Moke's growing independence, bold personality and training triumphs in the latest #GorillaStory update. Although visitors couldn’t be at the Zoo to celebrate his big day, primate keepers shared the love...and a sneak peek of his party! The talented team in our Department of Nutrition Sciences provided the pièce de résistance: a cake made from apple, grape and pineapple juices. Hidden inside are slices of grapefruit and lemon, and the cake is topped with blueberries, cranberries, white grapes and strawberries. The light green "frosting" is made from sweet potato paste, and Moke's name was crafted out of leaf-eater biscuit paste. Keepers serenaded the birthday boy with a rousing chorus of 'happy birthday to you!'

#NatZooZen: River Otter Emmett on American Trail

National Zoo
Need some #NatZooZen? Listen to the soothing sounds of our North American River otter, Emmett, blowing bubbles! Like their cousins, the sea otters, North American river otters have very thick and dense fur which help keeps them warm in cold temperatures. They also have oil glands in their skin that coats their fur and keeps them waterproofed.

#NatZooZen: Training with Maned Wolves Mateo and Quito

National Zoo
Grab a bite to eat with our maned wolves, Mateo and Quito! Cheetah Conservation Station keeper Adam Freedman asks them to “station,” or place their feet on a rubber food dish. When they do this, he rewards them with meatballs, frozen-thawed mice and capelin fish. He holds two dishes—one for each wolf—to ensure they are receiving all of their respective prey items. This practice ensures the boys don’t fight over food and helps build trust with their keepers. Station training allows keepers to get a close look at the animals’ body conditions, administer medications (via the food they eat), move between their indoor enclosure and outdoor habitat, and encourage them to climb upon a scale so keepers can monitor their weights. The latter a critical component of preventative healthcare with this species, which is prone to gastrointestinal conditions.

B-Roll: American Bison Exhibit at the Smithsonian's National Zoo

National Zoo
In honor of its 125th anniversary, the Smithsonian’s National Zoo is once again home to American bison, the animal that began the Zoo’s living collection in 1889 and sparked the conservation movement. The American Bison exhibit, sponsored by Continental Building Products, opens to the public Saturday, Aug. 30. “Our founder William Temple Hornaday envisioned a national zoo where bison and other vanishing species would thrive,” said Dennis Kelly, Zoo director. “By bringing bison back to the Zoo, we hope Americans will reconnect with this iconic species. Bison played a key role in the history of our country and the history of our great Zoo. Let these animal ambassadors remind us all that we can save wildlife and their habitats.” In 1887, Hornaday—chief taxidermist for the Smithsonian—proposed that Congress establish a National Zoological Park after seeing the bison population decline. Shortly thereafter, four American bison and a few other North American species roamed around the Smithsonian Castle. On March 2, 1889, Congress passed an act establishing the National Zoological Park in Washington, D.C., dedicated to “the advancement of science and the instruction and recreation of the people.” The Zoo officially became a part of the Smithsonian in 1890 and opened to the public April 30, 1891, in its current Rock Creek Park location. To name today’s bison, the Zoo collaborated with two local universities: Howard University and Gallaudet University. Both universities have a special connection to the species, which serves as their mascots. Howard University students chose to name one bison Zora in honor of alumnus Zora Neal Hurston, acclaimed author, poet and civil rights activist. Students at Gallaudet University selected the name Wilma in honor of alumnus Wilma Newhoudt-Druchen, the first deaf woman elected to serve in the Republic of South Africa’s parliament. Student representatives from each university announced the names at the Zoo Aug. 27. Zora and Wilma weigh 550 and 500 pounds, respectively; at full maturity, female bison can weigh up to 1,100 lbs. National Zoo visitors can expect to see the bison trot, rest and graze in their lush new habitat located adjacent to the “Zoo in Your Backyard” exhibit. Website visitors can learn about the ties between bison and the Zoo, how the animals were brought back from the brink of extinction and the deep connection American Indian nations have to this species. Bison have made a comeback since their populations were decimated to just 375 individuals, but the species still depends heavily on conservation action for survival. Today, about 30,000 individuals comprise the conservation herds. Another 500,000 are managed as livestock by private commercial ventures. The International Union for Conservation of Nature lists American bison as a species that is near threatened by extinction; IUCN does not consider commercial herds in designating population status. Both Zora and Wilma came to the Zoo from the American Prairie Reserve in northeastern Montana. The reserve spans more than 300,000 acres of public and private land. It is one of the most intact prairies left in North America. Bison are not the only animals living on the reserve; hundreds of others, including elk, pronghorn, sage grouse and prairie dogs, do too. Currently, with a continued focus on conservation and education, the Zoo is home to about 1,800 animals representing 300 species. Both the Zoo and the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute facilitate and promote veterinary and reproductive research as well as conservation ecology programs based at Front Royal, Washington, D.C., and at field research stations and training sites worldwide. The American Bison exhibit was made possible with the support of Continental Building Products, Friends of the National Zoo, the Smithsonian Women’s Committee and Share Fund. For additional information about the American Bison exhibit, visit the online press kit, which includes: National Zoo at 125, Meet the Bison, William Temple Hornaday, What Happened to Bison, Bison Today, American Bison and American Indian Nations, an interactive exhibit and video interviews with curators from the Zoo and the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian.

#NatZooZen: A Tale of Two Tian Tians

National Zoo
A tale of two Tian Tians: the calm and the storm. Whether he’s quietly enjoying an afternoon fruitsicle or going toe-to-toe with a towel scented with non-toxic bubble bath, there’s no denying he’s one adorable giant panda. When Tian Tian is in rut, he is very interested in playing with different textiles, especially if keepers add a unique scent to them. In this video, Asia Trail keepers dabbled some of his favorite bubble bath solution on a towel. Tian Tian is scent-anointing—or, as keepers call it, “washing” his ears and cheeks! For a treat, he also receives a fruitsicle—a frozen block of diluted apple, grape or pineapple juice sprinkled with chunks of apples or pears.

Micronesian Kingfisher Chick Hatches: Total of 129 Birds in Existence

National Zoo
The Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute rung in 2014 with the hatching of the most endangered species in its collection—a Micronesian kingfisher—Jan. 1. The chick, whose sex is unknown, is the first offspring for its 8-year-old father and 2-year-old mother. This boost brings the total population of Micronesian kingfishers to 129 birds. Micronesian kingfishers are extinct in the wild.

#BaoBaoBday: What is a Zhuazhou?

National Zoo
The National Zoo and the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China celebrated giant panda cub Bao Bao’s first birthday this morning with a Zhuazhou (dra-JO) ceremony. During a traditional Zhuazhou ceremony, symbolic objects are placed in front of a baby. The item that the baby reaches for first foretells something about his or her future. The Zhuazhou for Bao Bao was slightly modified for a panda cub. Three posters with symbols painted on them were placed in Bao Bao’s yard. Each poster had a different image, painted by students from the Sunshine School, affiliated with the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China and Friends of the National Zoo summer campers. Ambassador Cui Tiankai, Dennis Kelly, director of the National Zoo, and Brandie Smith, senior curator of mammals placed small honey treats (a new favorite treat of Bao Bao’s) under the posters. One poster had peaches painted on it; in China peaches are a symbol of longevity. The second poster had bamboo painted on it, representing good health for the panda cub. The final poster had pomegranates painted on it; in China pomegranates are a symbol of fertility. Bao Bao chose the peaches first, which means she will live a long life as an ambassador for panda conservation. She then played with the poster with bamboo painted on it and finally the pomegranate poster. After she had played with all three posters she climbed up her favorite hemlock tree.

Happy #SalamanderSaturday!

National Zoo
Happy salamander Saturday! This annual holiday honoring these amazing amphibians takes place on the first Saturday in May. To celebrate, we’re counting down animal keeper Matt Neff’s top six favorite salamander facts! Stop by the Reptile Discovery Center’s Jewels of Appalachia exhibit to see these awesome amphibians up close.

#NatZooZen: Allen's Swamp Monkey Zawadi Eats Bamboo Shoots

National Zoo
Bamboo isn’t just for the pandas! Primates are also munching a special, seasonal treat right now: bamboo shoots. As these shoots come up through the ground, they are much softer than the adult bamboo. An easy and tasty treat for our Allen’s swamp monkey, Zawadi. Yum!

American Avocet Training

National Zoo
Mealworms are on the menu for the Zoo’s American avocets. To help them acclimate to sharing a space with their caretakers, keeper Lori Smith crouches a short distance away. She tosses the tasty snacks onto a placemat, and the avocets gobble them up. Feeding the birds at a close proximity enables Smith to gain their trust. If they associate keepers with a positive experience, the birds will be calmer when it comes time for staff to enter the habitat for feeding, cleaning, husbandry training or veterinary procedures. It is also a useful tool for keeping tabs on the birds’ health, including their eating, bathing and preening habits.

Timelapse Video of Giant Panda Mei Xiang's Den

National Zoo
Giant panda Mei Xiang at Smithsonian's National Zoo built a nest leading up to the birth of her cub. A camera in the den caught sporadic images over that time, resulting in this video. Pandas that experience either a pregnancy or a pseudo-pregnancy build nests in preparation for birth.

Zoo Vets: Zebras and Education

National Zoo
Smithsonian Channel presents insights into the life of Suzan Murray, the National Zoo's chief veterinarian. Hear her—and a couple of other women at the Zoo—talk about educating children about science and zebra rumps.

Did You Know: Salamanders Have Survived Three Mass Extinctions

National Zoo
Oct. 15, 2015—Salamanders represent one of the most ancient forms of life. They survived three mass extinctions, including one that wiped out 96% of species on Earth. However, rising temperatures and dryer climates result in shrinking amphibian populations worldwide, and the salamander is at risk. Learn more about these prehistoric creatures online and join us at the opening of their new exhibit – Jewels of Appalachia – on Oct. 17!

Swim With a Fly River Turtle

National Zoo
🐢💦 Take a relaxing swim this #WorldTurtleDay with our Fly river turtle! These fresh water “sea” turtles are highly adapted to their aquatic lives. Also known as giant Amazon river turtles, this species is found in deep waters of rivers and lakes throughout the Amazon and Orinoco river basins. 🐢 #NatZooZen #BringTheZooToYou #ClosedButStillCaring

Thanksgiving Video Social Media

National Zoo
November 27, 2014—Today we are thankful for our staff—keepers, curators, veterinarians, researchers, and volunteers—for your dedication to all 1,800 animals at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute. The husbandry, training, enrichment and day-to-day care you help us provide are vital to the well-being of our animals. Thanks to your dedication we can continue our work to understand wildlife and help save species and their habitats. We are grateful for you, our supporters and Friends of the National Zoo members. With your help, we build new animal habitats, develop educational programs, conduct and share vital research, and train the next generation of global conservation leaders.Together, #WeSaveSpecies.

Did You Know: The U.S. is Home to More Species of Salamander Than Any Other Country?

National Zoo
Oct. 16, 2015—Of the estimated 600 salamander species in the world, one-third are found in the United States—half of which live in Appalachia. The area’s cool streams and shaded forests provide the ideal climate for salamanders, which need moisture to survive. Learn more about these secretive creatures online and join us for the Oct. 17 opening of our new Jewels of Appalachia exhibit in the Reptile Discovery Center. #WeSaveSpecies

African Lion Cub Update

National Zoo
Feb. 26, 2014 Yesterday was a busy morning for African lion Naba and her two cubs—who turned one month old Feb. 24! The family has moved back on to the public cam, and keepers were able to capture the family's waking moments. The cubs, who now weigh 13 and 14 lbs, had a bit of a wrestle before playing with mom's tail. Keepers have has an opportunity to closely examine the cubs several times, and they believe that we have two females! Although it's not uncommon to mis-sex cubs at such a young age, keepers feel confident in their assessment. Meanwhile, Naba's sister Shera is in an adjacent den. Keepers anticipate that she will give birth soon. We will be sure to keep you updated! http://nationalzoo.si.edu/Animals/GreatCats/default.cfm

Sea Lion Pup Debuts at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo

National Zoo
Aug. 26 -- Visitors to the Smithsonian’s National Zoo can view 2-month-old female sea lion Catalina making a splash on American Trail. Born June 26, Catalina is the first sea lion pup born at the Zoo in 32 years. Since Aug. 22, she has been slowly acclimating to the exhibit and exploring alongside 11-year-old mother Calli. The Zoo received a recommendation to breed Calli and the pup’s father, 8-year-old Jetty, from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Species Survival Plan. Calli has introduced the pup to all members of the colony, including two unrelated females named Summer and Sidney. Native to the West Coast of North America, California sea lions range from Baja, Mexico, to Vancouver Island, British Columbia. The International Union for Conservation of Nature classifies them as a species of least concern.

Przewalski's Horse Foals

National Zoo
Watch as the Przwealski's horse foals and their mother explore their new paddock! Przewalski's horses are critically endangered in the wild. Smithsonian National Zoo scientists are working to learn more about their biology and to boost their population numbers. A herd of Przewalski's horses lives at the Zoo's Conservation and Research Center in Front Royal, Virginia. September 8.
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