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Edinburgh pandas given help with artificial insemination

The UK's only female giant panda has been artificially inseminated after failed attempts to help her mate naturally.

Tian Tian the panda
Staff's hopes of a pregnancy follow last year's disappointment when the pair did not mate. Credit: PA

Edinburgh Zoo bosses were hopeful that Tian Tian would mate with her intended partner Yang Guang this year.

But after her hormone levels started to fall quickly they turned to artificial insemination, using samples from the male.

Experts say they will not know for certain whether Tian Tian is pregnant until she gives birth, which could be in August or September.

Edinburgh pandas ready to mate 'within two weeks'

The giant pandas at Edinburgh Zoo will be ready to mate within two weeks, keepers have revealed.

They hope Tian Tian and the zoo's male panda Yang Guang will produce a cub this year as the creatures both start to show the tell-tale signs that they are ready to breed.

There was disappointment last year when the pair did not mate, and although Tian Tian was artificially inseminated, she lost her foetus at late term.

Background: Edinburgh panda 'miscarriage'

 Tian Tian, in her enclosure.
Tian Tian, in her enclosure. Credit: David Cheskin/PA Wire

Experts will watch Tian Tian's behaviour closely to gauge when her 36-hour breeding window begins.

Tian Tian (Sweetie) and Yang Guang (Sunshine) are the first giant pandas to live in the UK for 17 years. They arrived on loan from China in December 2011 and will remain at Edinburgh Zoo for a decade.

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Mating season approaches for Edinburgh's pandas

Edinburgh Zoo's giant panda, Tian Tian. Credit: David Cheskin/PA Archive

Zoo keepers have begun a daily monitoring of the UK's giant panda couple as mating season approaches.

Edinburgh Zoo hopes Tian Tian and Yang Guang will produce a cub this year as the creatures start to show the tell-tale signs they are ready to breed.

There was disappointment last year when the pair did not mate and though Tian Tian was artificially inseminated she lost her foetus at late term.

Panda reproduction is a notoriously tricky process, with females only ovulating once a year.

Panda enclosure to remain closed

Tian Tian had been keeping keepers at Edinburgh Zoo guessing over her possible pregnancy since she was artificially inseminated in April.

In August, experts noted signs that she was pregnant and it was hoped a panda cub would be born by September and the panda enclosure was closed three weeks ago.

The wait goes on for possible sign of panda cubs

Tian Tian had been keeping keepers at Edinburgh Zoo guessing over her possible pregnancy.
Tian Tian had been keeping keepers at Edinburgh Zoo guessing over her possible pregnancy. Credit: David Cheskin/PA Wire

Chris West, Chief Executive Officer for the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland said:

“The panda enclosure will remain closed until the end of the week, in order to give Tian Tian time to get back into her routine and provide her keepers with the chance to recuperate after this long period of waiting.”

Read more: Edinburgh panda 'not expecting a cub'

Experts believe Edinburgh giant panda lost cub

Experts at the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland believe giant panda Tian Tian "conceived and carried a foetus until late term, but then lost it".

We are all saddened by this turn ofevents after so many weeks of waiting.

Timings are difficult to pinpoint atthis moment, but we had a meeting this morning where Tian Tian’s behaviour and hormone results were reviewed and have come to the conclusion that it is very likely she has lost the pregnancy.

– Chris West, Chief Executive Officer for the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland

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Zookeeper: Panda 'sticking to normal routine' so far

A zookeeper at Edinburgh Zoo, where it is hoped that Tian Tian the giant panda may be preparing to give birth, has said that so far she is "sticking to her normal routine".

Sharon Hatton said that Tian Tian is "doing very well" but that the zookeepers are "not seeing any changes" to suggest that a birth is imminent.

Read: Edinburgh Zoo on alert for historic panda baby birth

Timeline: Tian Tian's pregnancy

Tian Tian is set to give birth to the first panda born in the UK. Credit: Royal Zoological Society of Scotland

December 2011

Tian Tian (meaning Sweetie) and Yang Guang (Sunshine) arrive in Scotland from Ya'an reserve in Chengdu, China.

April 2012

The pair are introduced at Edinburgh Zoo and shown to a specially made "love tunnel", but they only go as far as wrestling.

Yang Guang and Tian Tian in the 'love tunnel'. Credit: Edinburgh Zoo

February 2013

The zoo launches a “panda-cam” so people across the world can watch the two giant pandas in the run-up to mating season.

April 2013

After failing to show signs that she is ready to mate, Tian Tian is artificially inseminated.

Tian Tian and Yang Guang wrestled but failed to mate. Credit: Edinburgh Zoo

June 2013

The zoo's plans to carry out an ultrasound to see if Tian Tian is pregnant are shelved because it is deemed too risky to sedate her.

August 2013

The Royal Zoological Society of Scotland reveals that hormone changes indicate Tian Tian may be pregnant.

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