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Panda possibly pregnant? Toronto Zoo hopes so

Female panda Er Shun is seen in this file photo.
Female panda Er Shun is seen in this file photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

TORONTO — Er Shun the panda will be under close watch by Toronto Zoo officials, looking for signs of pregnancy.

In a statement the zoo said Er Shun underwent two cycles of non-surgical artificial insemination Thursday.

“Earlier this week, Er Shun started showing signs of entering the breeding cycle through elevated levels of estrogen and decreased progesterone,” reads the statement. “As this critical period of estrus lasts for only 24 – 72 hours and only occurs once a year, the Toronto Zoo team had to act quickly.”

The zoo is part of a giant panda conservation breeding program. Er Shun and a male panda, Da Mao, are on loan from China until 2018. This isn’t the first attempt to inseminate Er Shun, the zoo tried unsuccessfully last year.

Zoo staff used sperm collected from Da Mao for the first procedure, and frozen sperm collected from two giant pandas in China for the second.

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Giant pandas only have one chance per year when they can breed and their gestation period is anywhere from 87 to 186 days — so zoo staff won’t know if Er Shun is pregnant until approximately 20 days before she gives birth.

“We will continue to closely monitor her and will provide updates as they become available. Keep your paws crossed!”

With files from the Canadian Press

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