Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 25 December 2014

No romance yet for panda 'couple'

Tian Tian the female panda ovulates just once a year, with a narrow window of just 36 hours in which she can get pregnant
Tian Tian the female panda ovulates just once a year, with a narrow window of just 36 hours in which she can get pregnant

With the eyes of the world upon them, the UK's only pandas could be forgiven for suffering stage fright - as the pair failed to mate after being brought together for the first time.

Keepers at Edinburgh Zoo opened a "love tunnel" between male Yang Guang and female Tian Tian's enclosures in the hope it would speed up the mating process.

The pair have a window of just 36 hours in which to mate, after tests showed she had ovulated.

The bears were introduced in the morning and, despite being brought together five times throughout the day, have so far failed to mate.

Although a zoo spokeswoman said the pair did show "encouraging" signs, with male panda Yang Guang mounting Tian Tian, which led to the pair "wrestling".

Tian Tian had also "called out incessantly to Yang Guang" and pressed her paws and nose up to the grate separating them.

Edinburgh Zoo has turned off the "pandacam" which allows people to watch the animals online, but the fevered speculation appears to have taken its toll.

An Edinburgh Zoo spokeswoman said: "Giant pandas Tian Tian and Yang Guang met for the first time this morning and then again several times this afternoon.

"Based on a combination of hormone testing and behavioural observation over several weeks, experts decided the time was now right for the panda pair to meet.

"The pair have now met five times, for five minutes each time, and although they have not yet mated, signs are very positive."

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