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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'

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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

Zoo: It is 'really difficult' to tell if a panda is pregnant

Edinburgh Zoo has admitted it is "really difficult" to tell if a female panda is pregnant as the wait goes on for a possible sighting of cubs.

Edinburgh Zoo said in a statement: "Panda breeding is not a precise science and combined with this each animal has their own individual biology - and Tian Tian is definitely not a text book panda!

Tian Tian in her enclosure at Edinburgh Zoo.
Tian Tian in her enclosure at Edinburgh Zoo. Credit: Danny Lawson/PA Wire

“Whilst Tian Tian continues to behave like she’s pregnant and whilst her hormones, behaviour and physical changes suggest the same, we will continue to manage her accordingly; as soon as we know otherwise we will of course announce this.

"To put it into context, there are no experts around the world who can say definitively how long a giant panda pregnancy is."

The zoo can still not confirm whether or not Tian Tian is pregnant.

At London Zoo a tiger cub was born for the first time in 17 years - and it was all caught on camera

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