Image: Pandas
Joe Marquette  /  AP file
Mei Xiang, a female giant panda, is followed by male Tian Tian at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., in this 2002 file photo. Mei Xiang was artificially inseminated in March with semen from Tian Tian, but zoo scientists say she is not pregnant.
updated 8/13/2008 2:44:23 PM ET 2008-08-13T18:44:23

The U.S. National Zoo says panda mother Mei Xiang will not give birth to a cub this year after all.

A spike in Mei Xiang's hormone levels in June suggested she might have been pregnant again. Zoo scientists and veterinarians said Wednesday they believe she may have miscarried or possibly had a false pregnancy.

Mei Xiang was artificially inseminated in March with semen from Tian Tian. He is the zoo's giant male panda.

The zoo says Mei Xiang's hormone levels have been declining and are leveling off.

In July 2005, Mei Xiang bore her first cub, Tai Shan. It helped boost attendance at the zoo, an arm of the Smithsonian Institution.

Both Mei Xiang and Tian Tian were born at the China Research and Conservation Center for the Giant Panda in Wolong, Sichuan, which maintains ownership.

The National Zoo Web site says offspring of the panda couple would belong to China, and the Zoo probably would return the baby to China once it is old enough. In April 2007, the zoo announced that Tai Shan, the first baby, would be allowed to stay in Washington an additional two years past his second birthday, which was July 9, 2007.

He eventually will be sent to China under the zoo's agreement with the China Wildlife Conservation Association.

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