Belfast Telegraph

Monday 22 December 2014

Mating bid pandas back on display

Tian Tian was artificially inseminated last week
Tian Tian was artificially inseminated last week

Edinburgh Zoo's panda pair will go back on display on Tuesday after female Tian Tian was artificially inseminated.

Zoo bosses had hoped she and Yang Guang would mate naturally when she came into season but animal experts ruled out putting them together after assessing her behaviour.

They said pairing the creatures on Saturday would have posed a risk of injury and Tian Tian was instead inseminated the following day using semen from Yang Guang and another panda.

Frozen semen was used from Bao Bao, a "genetically important" panda who died at Berlin Zoo last year.

"Using multiple samples allies with the panda's natural mating strategy to maximise the chance of successful breeding," said the zoo.

Iain Valentine, the attraction`s director of giant pandas, said: "This was ground-breaking science taking place for the first time in the UK. It would have been amazing if the pandas had mated naturally, however artificial insemination is the next best thing for the overall global conservation effort and the individual biology of Tian Tian.

"With every year that goes by where she does not become pregnant, it becomes harder for her to get pregnant naturally. In the wild, female pandas will mate with several males within her 36-hour breeding window, giving her the best chance of successful conception. In the zoo this is not possible."

Both pandas were said to be doing well and are expected to return to public display on Tuesday. If Tian Tian does become pregnant, confirmation will come in mid-July when she will have an ultrasound scan.

It would then be likely that her cub, or cubs, are born at the end of August or the beginning of September.

Tian Tian (Sweetie) and Yang Guang (Sunshine) arrived from China in December 2011 and have been a popular attraction, with visits from around 500,000 people in their first year, including actress Nicole Kidman and the Princess Royal.

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