ATLANTA -- Zoo Atlanta's giant panda Lun Lun is pregnant and the birth of her offspring is considered imminent, the zoo said Thursday.
A veterinary team at the zoo confirmed the 11-year-old Lun Lun was pregnant at about 4 p.m. after performing an ultrasound. "During today's ultrasound we confirmed a full formed fetus with a very strong heart beat," said Dr. Sam Rivera in a news release from Zoo Atlanta.
Lun Lun has been on 24-hour birth watch since August 9th, after Lun Lun showed a sharp decrease in appetite and withdrawn behavior. Those behavior patterns are often associated pregnancy or pseudopregnancy, zoo officials said.
The challenge with a panda pregnancy is that the female behaves the same for a false pregnancy as she does for the real one. And it is nearly impossible to tell the difference between the two.
Even modern technology doesn't seem to help.
"It's a little hard to see -- just because the fetus is very small, and giant pandas have a lot of intestines, an there's usually a lot of food in there," said Dr. Snyder. "So even though we do ultrasound regularly, lots of times we can't get a good image of the whole uterus."
Lun Lun's first cub named Mei Lan was born on Sept. 6, 2006. Zoo Atlanta is one of only four zoos in the U.S. exhibiting the endangered species.