Memphis Zoo crosses fingers for pregnant panda

(WMC-TV) – Excitement is growing at the Memphis Zoo, where they are waiting to find out if there will be a new addition to the panda exhibit.

Ya Ya, the female panda, has always been a popular attraction. She has, once again, been artificially inseminated. This time, zoo officials are hoping for a successful pregnancy.

"We test her urine and watch for different chemicals to change in the urine, but also at some point we hope to confirm via ultrasound," explained Matt Thompson, Memphis Zoo.

Ya Ya was inseminated several weeks ago, but there needs to be a second hormone spike as a positive indicator that she is pregnant. That occurs anywhere from 60 to 90 days after insemination.

"We're talking end of May, beginning of June, something like that would be the earliest that we would see something. Then, a month and a half after that there would be an actual birth," Thompson said.

Ya Ya, who enjoys chowing down on her daily feast of bamboo, will be turning 12 in a few months.

So far, there have been several unsuccessful attempts to impregnate her.

"We've done, I think, three panda artificial inseminations over the past few years," said Thompson.

While most pandas become fertile between March and May, Thompson said zoo keepers have even tried to adjust Ya Ya's environment in the hopes of a healthy pregnancy.

"She's getting outside a lot. Gets a lot of fresh air and sunshine, eating bamboo shoots which is something they do in the wild. All those are things we hope are cues to her obtaining and maintaining a pregnancy," said Thompson.

So far, Memphis is the only zoo in the country with pandas that have not had cubs.

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