The UK’s only female giant panda Tian Tian will not be giving birth on Friday, zookeepers have confirmed.
Tian Tian’s keepers believe she is pregnant but said her breeding cycle is expected to continue into next month.
Correspondence between Edinburgh Zoo and the Scottish Government had suggested the due date could be Friday.
A spokesman for Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS) Edinburgh Zoo said: “We can confirm our female giant panda, Tian Tian, will not be giving birth today.
Happy birthday Tian Tian! Our female giant panda turned 14 today. pic.twitter.com/uzFpccIUgR— Edinburgh Zoo (@EdinburghZoo) August 24, 2017
“Breeding pandas is exceptionally complex and we anticipate that her breeding cycle will continue into September. We’re closely monitoring Tian Tian and we will share any news as soon as possible.”
Animal welfare campaign group OneKind accused the zoo of putting money ahead of the interest of the pandas.
The charity said: “This poor panda cub will never be introduced to the wild and will only ever know a life in captivity.
OneKind's response to the news that giant panda Tian Tian is due to give birth at Edinburgh Zoo. pic.twitter.com/FEgGwD8wYk— OneKind (@onekindtweet) August 25, 2017
“To make matters worse, to produce a cub Tian Tian has been subjected to repeated invasive procedures since coming to Edinburgh.
“This has not been in the interest of pandas or conservation, and appears instead to be driven by the pursuit of PR and gate fees.”
The zoo spokesman said RZSS has supported more than 30 conservation projects to help safeguard the wild population of giant pandas in western China and helped contribute to the reclassification of the giant panda from endangered to vulnerable in the wild.
The latest panda pregnancy hopes follow repeated attempts over several years to see if the female could produce a cub.
Panda reproduction is a notoriously tricky process, with females only ovulating once a year.
Artificial insemination was attempted for a fifth time after the zoo’s male panda Yang Guang was unreceptive to natural mating.
Tian Tian (Sweetie) and Yang Guang (Sunshine) are the only giant pandas living in the UK.
The black and white bears arrived on loan from China in December 2011 and are due to remain at Edinburgh Zoo for a decade.
It was in 2008 that the zoo first announced it was in negotiations to bring a pair of giant pandas to Scotland.
The two were brought to the UK under a historic agreement between the UK and Chinese governments.
The pair, described as a gift from China, were the first giant pandas to reside in the UK for 17 years.
Their arrival marked the culmination of a five-year effort to bring them to Scotland, officials said.