Back in May, Er Shun, a female giant panda on loan to the Toronto Zoo from China was artificially inseminated as part of a breeding program to conserve the species.
The two procedures involved sperm collected from Da Mao, the zoo’s other panda currently on loan, as well as frozen sperm from two pandas in China.
As always with giant pandas, delayed implantation meant officials didn’t know if it worked. That was until now.
On Sept. 25, a fetal heartbeat was seen on ultrasound. Then, another ultrasound on Sept. 29 detected a second fetus.
“While this is a positive sign, the following three to four weeks are very critical. Toronto Zoo staff are cautiously hopeful for healthy births within this time frame. We will continue to provide updates as they become available and we encourage everyone to follow us on this incredible journey.”
And, there’s good reason to be cautious.
In August, Panda lovers mourned the loss of one of the twin pandas born at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo in Washington, D.C. Their mother, Mei Xiang, was also artificially inseminated. The smaller of the twins died a few days after birth. However, the surviving male is thriving and now has a name.
Meet our cub: Bei Bei! He’s our little endangered #bae. Thanks @FLOTUS and Mme. Peng Liyuan! #PandaStory pic.twitter.com/u4tcHYn3Sb
— National Zoo (@NationalZoo) September 25, 2015
The panda cub at @NationalZoo is a healthy and wiggly 2.95lbs—more than his siblings were at this age pic.twitter.com/fm4UciIxZS #PandaStory
— Smithsonian (@smithsonian) September 22, 2015
Er Shun and Da Mao arrived in Toronto in 2013.
They are scheduled to move to the Calgary Zoo in 2018. And, if all goes well, the twins will be going with them, the facilities confirmed.
There was even a Ron Burgundy level of panda-watch excitement on Canada’s campaign trail yesterday.
Panda-monium hit the war room of the governing Conservatives, which issued this cheeky press press release and included a photo of Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his wife, Laureen, from a trip to China.
Conservative Party Aims to Double Panda Population in Canada
With the exciting announcement by the Toronto Zoo this morning of giant panda Er-Shun’s pregnancy, the Conservative Party today committed that a re-elected Conservative government would set a target of doubling Canada’s panda population by 2016.
For the first time in over 20 years, Canada is once again home to giant pandas. The two pandas – female Er Shun and male Da Mao – will be in Canada for the next 8 years and are splitting their time between the Toronto Zoo and the Calgary Zoo.
“I was thrilled to welcome Da Mao and Er Shun to Canada in March, 2013,” said Prime Minister Harper. “Doubling Canada’s panda population is an ambitious goal, but with the hopeful arrival of two new baby pandas, Canadians will have the opportunity for even more panda sightings in both Toronto and Calgary.”
The Prime Minister also noted that his low-tax, balanced-budget plan to protect Canada’s economy would ensure a consistent supply of bamboo and other treats for Er-Shun and Da Mao.