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Edinburgh Zoo giant panda Tian Tian ‘not pregnant’

Tian Tian pictured in her enclosure at Edinburgh Zoo. Picture: Phil Wilkinson

Tian Tian pictured in her enclosure at Edinburgh Zoo. Picture: Phil Wilkinson

  • by CLAIRE BAILLIE
 

EDINBURGH Zoo have confirmed that female giant panda Tian Tian is not pregnant, following months of speculation.

Experts at the zoo believe she was successfully inseminated but lost the foetus at late term.

A statement said: “All of her hormonal and behavioural signs now indicate that she had conceived and carried a foetus until late term, but then lost it.”

Tian Tian (Sweetie) has been keeping her carers at Edinburgh Zoo guessing over her possible pregnancy since she was artificially inseminated in April.

In August, experts noted signs that she had been successfully fertilised and it was hoped a panda cub would be born by September.

Chris West, chief executive of the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS), which runs the zoo, said: “We are all saddened by this turn of events after so many weeks of waiting.

“Timings are difficult to pinpoint at this moment, but we had a meeting this morning where Tian Tian’s behaviour and hormone results were reviewed and have come to the conclusion that it is very likely she has lost the pregnancy.

“Up until now, Tian Tian has consistently shown signs of pregnancy. However, the veterinary team has noticed a significant decline in the amount of colostrum being produced and over the last few days she has returned to the normal eating and behavioural patterns of a non-pregnant panda.”

Tian Tian and male panda Yang Guang (Sunshine) arrived at Edinburgh Zoo from China in December 2011.

Zoo bosses hoped the pair would mate naturally when she came into season.

Animal experts ruled out putting them together after assessing her behaviour and Tian Tian was artificially inseminated using semen from Yang Guang and another panda.

As recently as last week experts said evidence suggested that a cub would be delivered.

Tian Tian had started to produce colostrum and preparations were being made for the much-anticipated arrival.

Meanwhile, Yang Guang has been ‘’off colour’’ and was recently removed from display due to illness.

The zoo said “everything possible” had been done to give Tian Tian the best care during her pregnancy.

Mr West said: “Our dedicated team of keepers, veterinary staff and many others worked tirelessly to ensure Tian Tian received the best care possible, which included remote observation and closing the panda enclosure to visitors to give her quiet and privacy.

“We are conducting a detailed review of the scientific data collected, but I am totally confident that we did everything it was possible to do.

“The majority of research centres and zoos with giant pandas around the world have not successfully bred until the third or fourth year and what we have achieved, considering we have had giant pandas for less than two years, is immense.

“New hormone research is beginning to indicate that lost pregnancies are more common in giant pandas than first thought, though at the moment no-one knows why.”

The panda enclosure will remain closed until the end of the week.

 

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