National Zoo brings panda procedure to life on Twitter

Looking for new ways to tell its annual story of impregnating an adult panda, the zoo brought people closer than ever before.

“The overwhelming response seemed to be, this is kind of weird, maybe a little gross, but fascinating,” says Lindsay Renick Mayer, communications specialist for the zoo.

One follower put it rather less delicately: “Is anyone closely following #pandaAI? If so, ewwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww.”

Attempts to impregnate Mei Xiang, a 13-year-old panda, have become an annual media event in the Washington, D.C., area. Almost anything involving the zoo’s beloved pandas gets coverage, but this year, the zoo’s communications team aimed to go beyond the standard press-release-and-photos package and really bring people closer to the process.

A new approach

Mei Xiang has been at the National Zoo for 11 years and in that time has given birth just once, in 2005. The zoo’s scientists have studied panda reproduction and behavior intensively, and, after a number of attempts to mate her with a male, they’ve moved on to the artificial method.

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