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Tuesday, August 12, 2003

Wacky Weather, Pregnant Panda? 

The weather in the Mid-Atlantic has been pretty crazy this year. Tons of snow in February, constant rain through April and May and into June. July and August (so far) were a bit more seasonal, a little cooler and more rain, but much of the damage has been done. Our squash aren't producing too much, the carrots and lettuce that we should have already eaten are still growing, the tomatoes are heavy on the vine, but green and hard, and the corn from the farmers market has all be stunted.

But things in Europe are even weirder. My editor in Paris escaped the city last weekend to visit friends in Normandy, where it was still hot. Heathrow Airport in London reached 100 degrees Fahrenheit. 100 in DC, yeah, that happens. In London? Never. And this heat (not to mention forest fires across the Continent) are on top of the massive floods last autumn. Which leads me to this story from the BBC about a seal from Zoo Praha: Prague's hero seal is posthumous father. I missed the story of this breakout when it happened last year, but I'm not surprised the seal made a run for it. I really like zoos because they play an important role in preserving species and expanding knowledge (both public knowledge and scientific), but many are old, underfunded and suffering from crumbling infrastructure, which isn't good for the animals, science or the public. I'm conflicted.

In zoo news closer to home, I just heard that on the radio that Mei Xiang is exhibiting some cradling behavior, which is yet another inconclusive sign of pregnancy or psuedopregnancy. On Sunday, she was a little more active than she has been in recent weeks, which isn't saying much, but there was no nestbuilding or other pregnancy-related behaviors. I don't know if she is or if she isn't, and she's not giving any definite clues. I think there's another ultrasound scheduled for tomorrow, so maybe we'll find something out. To tell the truth, I hope Mei isn't pregnant because she still is pretty young (plus if Tian Tian has to stay by himself for a year or more while she's raising a cub, it could get a bit ugly -- he really seems to thrive on interaction), but if she is it'll be quite exciting ...

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