Every wonder what a giant panda's artificial insemination is like? If you followed the National Zoo's Twitter feed on Monday, you found out, in startlingly vivid detail, tweet by tweet.
The Washington, D.C., zoo turned control of its Twitter feed over to Dave Wildt, head of the Center for Species Survival, who "live-tweeted" the insemination of Mei Xiang, a 13-year-old, 230-pound panda at the zoo. (The procedure actually took place on Sunday night, but the zoo still billed Wildt's updates as "live.")
Using the hashtag "#pandaAI," Wildt provided a steady stream of cheery tweets--including photos--as Mei was filled with thawed sperm.
"It's an exciting day!" Wildt wrote. "It only takes one!"
There are just 1,600 pandas left on earth, he added, which is why they are hoping to get Mei to produce a cub.
Here are a selection of tweets from the two-hour event:
Ready to go! #pandaAI http://pic.twitter.com/bBswnTQf
The microscope is set up, the pipettes are ready and the slides are prepped. A little more to do until we'll bring in Mei Xiang. #pandaAI
Here's Mei right now. Volunteers are watching her from our research station as we prepare. #pandaAI http://pic.twitter.com/5hHmOApC
There are 15-20 of the Zoo's scientists, animal keepers and vets in the room, waiting. Lots of equipment. #pandaAI http://pic.twitter.com/9PbIC3z5
Last night we couldn't get quality sample from Tian, so we used a frozen sample from 2005, the year Tai Shan was born! #pandaAI
Today we're using the same process using the "vintage" sperm. #pandaAI
Now we have to get Mei ready. #pandaAI http://pic.twitter.com/9Sfk5P1Q
Mei is wearing a blue mask to get anesthesia. The vets are monitoring her heart rate and blood pressure, too. #pandaAI
Dr. Desheng and Dr. Comizzoli are inserting a thin tube about 12 inches into Mei filled with sperm. #pandaAI http://pic.twitter.com/kRtzob5r
They use .25 mL straws of sperm. That's a total of 1.5 mL of sperm, or up to 800 million motile sperm in the sample! #pandaAI
Sperm frozen in 2005 from Tian Tian, our male giant panda, had good motility (lots of swimming). #pandaAI http://pic.twitter.com/Uq92D83d
One of our repro experts, Dr. Aiken-Palmer holds the next vial of 100,000 million sperm. "It only takes one!" http://pic.twitter.com/t4i0XLv4
They shifted the table and are positioning Mei's head lower than her pelvis. Gravity's important here. #pandaAI http://pic.twitter.com/khzSLzPc
Yesterday Mei and Tian Tian, our male panda, got to spend some time together—this is the only time of year they are put together. #pandaAI
When Mei and Tian are feeling the love, they bleat and chirp. This is one of the behavioral signals keepers track for breeding. #pandaAI
We're keeping Mei elevated for 10 minutes. We used 10 straws of sperm. #pandaAI
Female giant pandas can only breed during a short 24-72 hour window each year. #pandaAI
We've been monitoring Mei's hormones and watching the panda behavior for months now to determine the best time for an AI. #pandaAI
When I got the phone call that now's the time, I dropped everything to get to the Zoo, just like everyone else here! #pandaAI
This is the 8th year we've artificially inseminated Mei Xiang. #pandaAI
It's done! The keepers, vets and researchers had to move fast to carry her! But here they are! #pandaAI http://pic.twitter.com/QJVKVMXw
Mei did great and there's a sense of celebration and accomplishment in the air here! #pandaAI
Pandas experience delayed implantation, which means the embryo doesn't latch onto the uterine wall immediately. #pandaAI
Our vets will do ultrasounds, but because the cub would be so small, we wouldn't necessarily see it until one week before birth. #pandaAI
We'll know later this summer whether she's pregnant or if she experiences a pseudo, or fake, pregnancy. #pandaAI
And here's our slightly groggy, black-and-white rock star in recovery! #pandaAI http://pic.twitter.com/a1FAPJfh
"We hope you learned something," Wildt tweeted following the procedure.
Trust us, doc, we did.
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