Berlin (dpa) - pregnant or not? This question is currently moving animal lovers in Berlin. At the center of the considerations is the panda pair of the capital zoo, which is optimistic for the summer and expects offspring.
"There is a high probability, but still no absolute certainty that bears Meng Meng is pregnant," said zoo director Andreas Knieriem on Wednesday. "We've never been that far in Berlin."
Germany's only panda couple - a loan from China - has been living in the capital since 2017. Bear Meng Meng, which means "little dream", is considered curious, adventurous, but also a little diva in the zoo. If she does not like something, she runs backwards. At the moment Meng Meng is in a rather bad mood, does not eat much and is more restless than usual, Knieriem reported. Along with urinary hormone levels and an ultrasound scan, it suggests that the six-year-old bear is pregnant - for the first time in her life.
Nobody knows for sure, though, that a panda cub is maturing from the approximately three centimeters large embryonic bladder, which can be recognized in the uterus on the most recent ultrasound image. Apparent pregnancies in which embryos do not mature are considered possible in pandas. "That's all controlled by the hormones," said expert Thomas Hildebrandt from the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (IZW), who has regularly examined the panda lady. However, the likelihood that Meng Meng will actually expect offspring is around 85 percent.
Visitors will not see a panda with a big baby belly. Panda boys are born tiny and immature. They are no bigger than guinea pigs, naked and helpless. At a birth in Berlin, Chinese experts would come to support the rearing in the first time. Young animals remain under the contract Chinese property. Only at the age of three months does a small panda, which only slowly grows a coat, start to run.
Every baby of the endangered pandas is considered valuable for the offspring. Some pandas would be released in their homeland, even if they were born abroad, said Hildebrandt. In the wild in China only about 1860 Great Pandas lived.
In order to even know what pregnancy is all about, Meng Meng has been trained in Berlin since the beginning. She learned to lie down on command, shave her stomach and rub it with warmed ultrasound gel. Anesthesia is not necessary.
In the past year, the playful Meng Meng the Zoo appeared too young for a mating attempt. This April, the two black-and-white bears were then allowed to find each other - their approximately ten-million-euro enclosure with pool and mist nozzles also has a love tunnel. However, the two were in terms of panda sex as inexperienced. To increase the likelihood of offspring, Meng Meng was also inseminated artificially. Because the time window, in which Panda females are fertile, with a maximum of 72 hours a year is very short. Most recently, panda twins were born in a Belgian zoo in Europe.
The animal rights organization Peta criticized that the keeping and breeding of pandas in zoos had purely political and economic reasons, but made no contribution to the protection of species. Of the animals bred worldwide, only seven were released by 2016 - and only five survived.