Giant panda Mei Xiang artificially inseminated at National Zoo

Giant pandas Tian Tian, left and Mei Xiang sleep on the rocks in front of their custom-made grotto January 4, 2000 at the National Zoo in Washington DC. The zoo announced Saturday that Mei Xiang has been artificially inseminated with sperm from Tian Tian.</p>

Giant pandas Tian Tian, left and Mei Xiang sleep on the rocks in front of their custom-made grotto January 4, 2000 at the National Zoo in Washington DC. The zoo announced Saturday that Mei Xiang has been artificially inseminated with sperm from Tian Tian.

Officials at the National Zoo announced they artificially inseminated their female giant panda Mei Xiang in hopes that she would produce another panda baby.

Veterinarian Tang Chunxiang did the procedure Saturday after animal keepers determined there was no natural breeding between Mei Xiang and the zoo's male giant panda Tian Tian.

Dr. Tang traveled from China's China's Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda to assist in the insemination.

Mei Xiang was inseminated with a combination of fresh sperm from Tian Tian and samples collected and frozen since 2003, reports NBC Washington.

"We are hopeful that our breeding efforts will be successful this year, and we’re encouraged by all the behaviors and hormonal data we’ve seen so far,” Dave Wildt, head of the Center for Species Survival at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute told NBC.

"We have an extremely small window of opportunity to perform the procedures, which is why we monitor behavior and hormones so closely.”

If the procedure is successful, this will be the third pregnancy for Mei Xiang. She gave birth to a female cub last September but sadly the baby died six days later.

Mei Xiang and Tian Tian have a surviving son, Tai Shan, who was born in 2005 and lives in China.

The panda habitat at the National Zoo has been closed since Tuesday but is expected to reopen on Sunday.