Edinburgh pandas ‘ready to mate in two weeks’

THE wait for a baby panda at Edinburgh Zoo is set to go on a little longer, after keepers said the breeding season was expected to fall later than expected.

Experts have been keeping a close eye on the pandas and hoped last week would have heralded the beginning of the breeding season. They now say Tian Tian and Yang Guang are more likely to be ready to mate within the next two weeks.

Iain Valentine, director of giant pandas for the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, said: “We hope to have some news to share soon.

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“A combination of methods are used to predict when female pandas go into season, primarily hormone analysis and behavioural observation.

“Both pandas started to show breeding behaviours pretty early this year when compared to 2012, which is a sign that they’re nice and settled in their home in Scotland. Tian Tian has shown hormone fluctuations a couple of times that suggested we were about to see a hormonal crossover that then tells us the 36 hour breeding window is 11 to 14 days away; this is all a pretty normal part of the journey.

“We’re still to see this indicator and we wait in anticipation each day, however the giant panda breeding season peak is actually mid-April, sometimes lasting until early May - this is when the Washington giant panda went into season last year - so this is really only early days still. Tian Tian in particular over the last three years has varied anything up to a month from one year to the next in terms of when she’s come into season.”

Scientists have collected samples from her every day to send for testing in the hope of finding the right moment to put her together with Yang Guang.