Edinburgh Zoo to postpone giant panda breeding

Scotland’s only female giant panda will not deliver a cub for the ninth consecutive year – because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Tian Tian, also known as Sweetie, is understood to have been approaching her hormonal peak, and was bulking up on bamboo in preparation for a breeding attempt.

Plans were in place for her to be artificially inseminated for the seventh time since arriving in Scotland from China in 2011.

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Keepers at the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS) attraction were monitoring the 16-year-old animal’s hormones and behaviour.

Edinburgh Zoo to postpone giant panda breeding

But they said vets had been instructed to respect social distancing advice and provide emergency care only.

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Darren McGarry, head of living collections at Edinburgh Zoo said today]: “We will not attempt giant panda breeding this year.

“Giant pandas can only become pregnant during a short period, usually over a few days in spring.

“Although the artificial insemination process is routine, it requires a specialist support team and the veterinary guidance at the moment is for vets to respect the social distancing

advice and provide emergency care only.

“These are unprecedented times and we fully support these measures.”

Tian Tian and male Yang Guang – meaning Sunshine – arrived at Edinburgh Zoo in 2011 on a ten year loan from China, for which the RZSS pays £600,000 a year.

Staff have been trying to assist Tian Tian to produce an historic cub in Scotland but efforts have so far failed.

Panda reproduction is a notoriously tricky process, however, with females only ovulating once a year.

Tian Tian has been artificially inseminated since 2013, using samples from Yang Guang, whose testicles were removed in November 2018 due to the presence of tumours.

Mr McGarry added: “We will discuss the next steps with our colleagues in China, though it is too soon to say what these may be.”

Edinburgh Zoo is currently closed to visitors following government advice on coronavirus and social distancing.

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