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Baby panda on the way? | National Zoo's Mei Xiang artificially inseminated

Scientists and panda keepers won't know if Mei Xiang is pregnant for several months

WASHINGTON — Mei Xiang might be expecting soon.

The giant panda was artificially inseminated Thursday at the Smithsonian's National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute by a team of scientists and panda keepers.

Since the window in which a panda can conceive a cub is so short, the panda team won't know if Mei Xiang is expecting for several months, zoo officials said in a news release.

The procedure was done after experts carefully observed Mei Xiang's hormonal changes and different behaviors, indicating that she was ready to breed. Tian Tian was the donor for the insemination.

WATCH: Giant Panda Cam

Welcome to the Smithsonian's National Zoo's Panda Cams, where you can watch giant pandas Tian Tian, Mei Xiang and Bei Bei. While you are watching pandas chomp on bamboo, play in trees and tumble in the grass, specially trained volunteers with Friends of the National Zoo are hard at work using these cameras to collect behavioral data on the giant pandas.

Steven Monfort, the John and Adrienne Mars director of Zoo, believes the two pandas displayed clear signs to the team, indicating they were ready for reproduction.

"Every giant panda breeding season is slightly different, but Mei Xiang and Tian Tian have been displaying very clear and strong behaviors this year,” Monfort said. "They made it extremely obvious to us that they were preparing for breeding, and in turn we have been tracking Mei Xiang’s hormones to make sure we didn’t miss the optimal window for an artificial insemination. It’s time to wait and see if we were successful."

The Panda House is open until 6 p.m. Friday for visitors to see Mei Xiang, Tian Tian and Bei Bei at the David M. Rubenstein Family Giant Panda Habitat. The pandas can also be visited virtually through the Zoo's Panda Cam.

RELATED: Panda breeding is in the air | National Zoo says Mei Xiang shows signs breeding season is approaching