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Artificial Insemination Used To Help San Diego Panda

Reported by Guillermo Sevilla

Love is in the air at the San Diego Zoo, and Bai Yun the giant panda is ovulating.

But her mate, Gao Gao, wasn't ready for prime time, so zoo officials decided to use artificial insemination in hopes of producing more offspring.

Photo credit: Tammy Spratt / San Diego Zoo

Two giant pandas at the San Diego Zoo are pictured, March 10, 2015.

Barbara Durrant, who is with the zoo's Institute for Conservation Research, said on Wednesday they won't know if there's a fetus there for a few months.

"Not very many animals have been artificially inseminated in a zoo setting. Pandas probably more than any other species," Durrant added.

Gao Gao has fathered five of the six panda cubs born at the zoo. Last year, he had surgery to remove his right testicle because of a tumor.

"He's getting older and he did have some health problems. And he and Bai Yun just simply were not able to make the right connection this year," Durrant said.

At age 23, Bai Yun has mothered all of the zoo's panda cubs. Her last, Xiao Liwu, was born in 2012. In the wild, these adorable bears are considered to be critically endangered, so producing more of them is vital to keeping the species alive.

Zoo officials had recently observed mating signals between the pandas, and they were initially left alone for their first breeding attempt since 2012. They even turned off the online PandaCam, but it's now back on.

An earlier version of this story incorrectly said Xiao Liwu was born in 2013. He was born in 2012.

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