Berlin Zoo confirms panda Meng Meng is pregnant

Berlin's beloved panda Meng Meng is expecting a cub, the zoo announced on Tuesday.

Berlin Zoo confirms panda Meng Meng is pregnant
Meng Meng the panda in Berlin. Photo: DPA

“We are delighted with the news,” said Berlin Zoo director Andreas Knieriem after an ultrasound scan confirmed the pregnancy.

Berlin Zoo says the size of the foetus and the results of hormonal analysis suggest the birth will take place within a fortnight.

The zoo tweeted the good news, showing an ultrasound picture of the “mini panda”. 

Meng Meng, which means 'Little Dream', and her mate Jiao Qing, 'Little Treasure', have been living in Berlin Zoo since 2017.

Their arrival in the German capital was greeted by both Chancellor Angela Merkel and Chinese President Xi Jinping.

READ ALSO: The diva and the dude: A year of Berlin's beloved pandas

They are the only pandas currently in Germany, housed in an enclosure that cost nine million euros.

“Every birth of an endangered species like pandas is a great gift,” added Knieriem, who pointed out how difficult it is to breed pandas.

Meng Meng in Berlin Zoo in October 2018. Photo: DPA

Meng Meng was artificially inseminated, to increase the chances of conceiving, after the pandas mated.

Under China's 'panda diplomacy', the animals, considered national treasures, are effectively on loan to other countries.

Any panda cubs born abroad must be returned to China within four years, after they have been weaned.

China has sent giant pandas to only a dozen countries, including France, where a baby cub, Yuan Meng, was born last year and turned one this month.

Baby fever

And Meng Meng is not the only animal eyeing up parenthood in the zoo in recent weeks. A gay penguin couple, who tried to hatch a stone, have adopted an egg.

READ ALSO: Gay penguins in Berlin adopt egg after trying to hatch a stone

It's not clear yet if the egg has been fertilized, but Skipper and Ping have been caring for the egg in their bid to become parents.  


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PETA offers cash to ban Pamplona’s famous running of the bulls forever

With the news last week that the Spanish city of Pamplona in Navarra has been forced to cancel its bull running fiesta for the second year running due to the Covid crisis, animal rights activists have seized on the opportunity to call for it to be banned permanently.

PETA offers cash to ban Pamplona’s famous running of the bulls forever
A shot from the encierro on July 7th 2019. Photo: AFP

PETA are writing to the mayor of Pamplona with the offer of €298,000 if the Navarran city ceases the use of bulls during their fiesta altogether.

“People around the world, including in Spain, say it’s past time the torment and slaughter of animals for human entertainment were stopped,” says PETA founder Ingrid Newkirk in her appeal to Pamplona mayor, Enrique Maya.

“Now is the moment to be on the right side of history. We hope you will accept our offer and allow Pamplona to reinvent itself for the enjoyment of all.”

Each morning during the eight day festival of San Fermin in Pamplona, which bursts into celebration at midday on July 6th, six fighting bulls and six steers are released to run through the narrow streets of the old town to the bullring where the bulls are killed in the evening corridas.

Hundreds run alongside the animals in the morning dash which often results in gorings, and injuries from being stomped on after runners lose their footing in the crowds.

The festival, which was made world famous by Ernest Hemingway, who set his 1926 novel “The Sun Also Rises” during San Fermin, attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors to the party each year.

The festival, which sees Pamplona’s population swell from just under 200,000 to more than a million, is estimated to bring an annual boost of €74 million to Pamplona businesses, according to an association of fighting bull breeders.

PETA’s offer is the latest in a long campaign to ban what it calls “Pamplona’s annual bloodbath”.

Together with Spanish groupAnimaNaturalis, the activists stage peaceful protests ahead of the start of the festival year.

The city’s former mayor, Joseba Asirón, supported the protests, describing them as “fair and honest”.

Speaking to reporters about the groups’ calls to remove bull runs from the festival, he said, “[T]his is a debate that sooner or later we will have to put on the table. For a very simple reason, and that is that basing the festival on the suffering of a living being, in the 21st century, is something that, at best, we have to rethink.”

Since the pandemic began festivals across Spain have been cancelled but corridas were allowed last summer with limited occupancy and with social distancing and Covid-19 measures in place.

But although Spain’s bullfighting lobby is strong, there is a general trend away from it.

In a poll published in 2019 by online newspaper El Español, over 56 percent of Spaniards said they were against bullfighting, while only 24.7 were in favour. Some 18.9 percent said they were indifferent.

Support was significantly higher among conservative voters, it showed.