Edinburgh Zoo on alert for historic panda baby birth

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

Edinburgh Zoo is braced for the birth of the UK's first giant panda baby.

The UK's only female giant panda, Tian Tian, was artificially inseminated in April and is expected to give birth within the next fortnight. She was placed on 24 surveillance after the latest hormone tests revealed she could be pregnant.

Specialist staff from China arrived in Scotland over the weekend as the zoo stepped up preparations for the historic birth.

They will be monitoring the bear to look for signs of labour such as restless behaviour and bleating.

The zoo has two incubators ready for the imminent arrival, or arrivals should she give birth to twins.

However, if she is pregnant, there is the possibility that she may not carry to the full term. Her body may reabsorb any foetuses or reject them.

Staff at Edinburgh Zoo say that to keep her relaxed she has access to her off-show area where her cubbing box is located, and she is spending most of her time there.

Read: Edinburgh panda 'pregnant'

The identity of the baby panda's father will initially be unclear.

After many months of failed mating attempts between Tian Tian her prospective mate Yang Guang, she was inseminated with sperm from Yang Guang and another male from Berlin Zoo called Bao Bao.

Read: Edinburgh pregnancy throws zoo into panda-monium

Giant panda cubs from the Bifengxia panda breeding centre in China. Credit: Reuters/China Daily

The birth process is very delicate, and there is a chance that Tian Tian could lose the cubs.

If she gives birth to two cubs, one will have to be swiftly removed as the mother will only care for one baby.

It is expected that the baby panda will be returned to China within two years.