'A good day': Giant panda's pregnancy brings cheer to U.S. National Zoo
By Maria Caspani (Reuters) - Animal lovers rejoice: Mei Xiang, a 22-year-old giant panda at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C. will give birth in a matter of days, according to zoo officials, in what could be her fourth successful pregnancy. The event is a much-needed bit of good news for the National Zoo, which had to close for months because of the coronavirus pandemic.
By Maria Caspani
(Reuters) - Animal lovers rejoice: Mei Xiang, a 22-year-old giant panda at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C. will give birth in a matter of days, according to zoo officials, in what could be her fourth successful pregnancy.
The event is a much-needed bit of good news for the National Zoo, which had to close for months because of the coronavirus pandemic.
On Monday, the zoo posted a video of the giant panda's ultrasound on its social media channels that captured the fetus in motion and confirmed the pregnancy.
"As soon as I saw this image of the infant fetus with a beating heart and the skeletal structures, I'm like, all right, not only do we have a really good picture, but we've got movement," Don Neiffer, the zoo's chief veterinarian told Reuters on Tuesday. "Yesterday was definitely a good day."
Neiffer did not rule out that Mei Xiang could give birth to twins, which often happens with pandas, and that the zoo was preparing for the possibility.
"If two are born, then it's highly unlikely that she will raise them at the same time by herself," he said.
News of Mei Xiang's pregnancy, which the zoo first teased last week, sparked enthusiasm among animal lovers who flocked to the zoo's panda cams to get a glimpse of the expectant mother. (https://nationalzoo.si.edu/webcams/panda-cam)
"Since that announcement came out on Friday... it's blown up," Neiffer said.
Scientists at the zoo first detected fetal tissue last week after Mei Xiang was artificially inseminated in March after previous failed pregnancy attempts and despite being near the end of her reproductive lifecycle.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the zoo's experts implemented special precautions to reduce person-to-person contact during the process.
Mei Xiang's last cub, Bei Bei, left Washington for China in November last year as part of a breeding program that is key to efforts to reintroduce pandas into the wild.
Thanks to reforestation to expand habitats in which the species can survive, pandas have been reclassified from "endangered" to "vulnerable" by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. There are an estimated 1,800 giant pandas in the wild.
(Reporting by Maria Caspani in New York; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)
This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.
By Robin Emmott and John Irish | BRUSSELS/PARIS BRUSSELS/PARIS France and Germany will agree to a U.S. plan for NATO to take a bigger role in the fight against Islamic militants at a meeting with President Donald Trump on Thursday, but insist the move is purely symbolic, four senior European diplomats said.The decision to allow the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to join the coalition against Islamic State in Syria and Iraq follows weeks of pressure on the two allies, who are wary of NATO confronting Russia in Syria and of alienating Arab countries who see NATO as pushing a pro-Western agenda."NATO as an institution will join the coalition," said one senior diplomat involved in the discussions. "The question is whether this just a symbolic gesture to the United States
BEIJING Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday called for greater efforts to make the country's navy a world class one, strong in operations on, below and above the surface, as it steps up its ability to project power far from its shores.China's navy has taken an increasingly prominent role in recent months, with a rising star admiral taking command, its first aircraft carrier sailing around self-ruled Taiwan and a new aircraft carrier launched last month.With President Donald Trump promising a US shipbuilding spree and unnerving Beijing with his unpredictable approach on hot button issues including Taiwan and the South and East China Seas, China is pushing to narrow the gap with the U.S. Navy.Inspecting navy headquarters, Xi said the navy should "aim for the top ranks in the world", the Defence Ministry said in a statement about his visit."Building a strong and modern navy is an important mark of a top ranking global military," the ministry paraphrased Xi as saying.