Belfast Telegraph

Monday 22 September 2014

Panda artificially inseminated

Giant panda Tian Tian has been artificially inseminated

The UK's only female giant panda has been artificially inseminated in the hope of making her pregnant.

Natural mating was not attempted between Tian Tian (Sweetie) and male Yang Guang (Sunshine) as scientists who have been monitoring them at Edinburgh Zoo decided that Tian Tian was showing signs that were not "conducive to mating".

A team of experts have been at the zoo for the last week to monitor the pandas as Tian Tian approached her crucial 36-hour breeding window.

A spokeswoman for the zoo said the procedure went well and the pandas will be off display until Tuesday.

"Edinburgh Zoo's specialist team and experts from around the world performed artificial insemination on female giant panda Tian Tian in the early hours of this morning," she said on Sunday.

"Natural mating was not attempted. Yang Guang had been interested and shown consistently encouraging behaviour, however based on his many years' experience, our Chinese colleague Professor Wang felt that although Tian Tian had displayed all of the correct behaviours, she had also displayed signs that told him she would not be conducive to mating.

"Both pandas and humans are sleeping today. The procedures went very much to plan and they are both well, but will be off show until Tuesday."

The normal breeding season for pandas is between mid-April to May. The male and female are kept in separate enclosures throughout the year and only come together for mating.

Throughout the last week keepers at the zoo swapped the pandas between enclosures in an effort to prepare them for mating. Tian Tian and Yang Guang were also able to interact with a grate keeping them apart.

Scientists have been monitoring Tian Tian and signs that she was nearing mating season included grumpy behaviour and loss of appetite. Keepers had been hopeful that the pair would mate naturally, but said last week that Tian Tain would also be artificially inseminated to increase her chances of getting pregnant.

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