If the speculation from the officials at Tokyo’s Ueno Zoo turn out to be correct, then their female panda may very well be pregnant. This would be wonderful news for the Japanese zoo, as they haven’t had any baby pandas born over 20 years. The two adult pandas, Shin Shin (female) and Ri Ri (male), have been on loan from China since February 2011, and were able to be viewed by the public shortly after the March 11th disasters, bring some much-needed joy to the region.
The two pandas were seen by the zoo’s camera mating earlier in the year, and over the last month, Shin Shin has been showing increasing signs of pregnancy. Officials have observed the 6 year old panda spending much more time sleeping, eating less, and experiencing sudden hormonal changes. Japan’s panda enthusiast have been arriving in large numbers to get their last view of Shin Shin before she is taken away from the public on Tuesday, July 3rd. Veterinarians believe she could give birth anytime during the month of July.
Yutaka Fukuda, Ueno Zoo’s vice deputy director, says the last panda birth was in 1988. The first panda birth in 24 years will surely be a reason to celebrate, Fukuda comments. He also explains that the animal keepers have been practicing with “birth drills,” as there is actually no scientific way to know that a panda is about to give birth. They will of course be monitoring, but they won’t know if it’s the real thing until the moment it happens. I’m sure Ueno Zoo, and all of Japan, is looking forward to that moment.