National Zoo: Panda watch ends in false pregnancy

By BRETT ZONGKER | July 22, 2011 | 11:15 AM EDT

FILE - In this Tuesday, Aug. 21, 2007 file photo, Mei Xiang sleeps in a tree in the panda enclosure at the National Zoo in Washington. The National Zoo says that its female giant panda Mei Xiang is not pregnant and officials have ended their round-the-clock pregnancy watch. (AP Photo/Ron Edmonds, file)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Veterinarians at the National Zoo in Washington say giant panda Mei Xiang (may-SHONG) has failed to become pregnant for the fifth year in a row.

The veterinarians announced Friday that Mei Xiang has been experiencing a pseudopregnancy over the past several months. That means she ovulated but did not conceive.

Animal keepers had been closely watching her behavior and monitoring her hormone levels in recent months because she had been eating less, staying in her den and cradling objects the way she did before she gave birth once before.

In January, the Smithsonian Institution signed new five-year, $2.5 million agreement with the Chinese to keep the beloved pandas in Washington.