On May 14, 2015, Er Shun, the Toronto Zoo's female giant panda on loan from China as part of a conservation breeding program, underwent two non-surgical artificial insemination (AI) procedures. Zoo staff and a giant panda breeding expert from Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding in China, used sperm collected from Da Mao for the first procedure and frozen sperm collected from two giant pandas in China that were imported to Toronto Zoo in 2014, for the second AI.
Giant pandas have what is called delayed implantation and the gestation period is anywhere from 87 to 186 days from the date of insemination. Since the AI procedure, Toronto Zoo staff from the Wildlife Health Centre, Reproductive Programs and Wildlife Care have been continuously monitoring Er Shun for any physiological and behavioural changes to determine if she is pregnant. As well, Dr. Cathy Gartley, a veterinarian from the Ontario Veterinary College at the University of Guelph has been conducting regular ultrasounds on Er Shun.
On Friday, September 25, 2015, a fetal heartbeat was seen on the ultrasound. Another ultrasound was conducted on Tuesday, September 29, 2015 and, much to our surprise, we captured an image of a second panda fetus. While this is a positive sign, the following three to four weeks are very critical. Toronto Zoo staff are cautiously hopeful for healthy births within this time frame. We will continue to provide updates as they become available and we encourage everyone to follow us on this incredible journey.