The revelation comes as the zoo prepares for the looming three-day mating window for its two newly arrived Giant Pandas, Tian Tian, and the male Yang Guang.
The pandas have already demonstrated early signs that romance is in the air. Kept in separate enclosures until the vital moment, they have been calling to each other through the fence and scent-marking the ground where the enclosures join.
The zoo is desperately hoping the pair will mate naturally, possibly this week, and that cubs will result. If Tian Tian gets pregnant, she will give birth in September to the first panda cub ever born on Scottish soil.
A live broadcast of the birth would be a world first, allowing the public a never-before-seen close-up view of one of nature’s rarest creatures at a critical time in its survival.
“It could be that we would be able to give the world the view of the panda giving birth live,” said Iain Valentine, director of animal conservation and research. “We are absolutely considering it. It has been recorded before, but nobody’s ever given it to a live audience.”
The zoo already has a “panda cam” installed in the animals’ enclosure so that the public can watch the pandas go about their daily activities. Tian Tian, in common with all female pandas, has just a three-day window each year during which she can be successfully mated. Daily samples of her urine are being couriered all the way to Chester Zoo to be tested by a specialist endocrinologist to see if she is ready. If the pair are unable to mate naturally, the zoo will consider the tricky procedure of artificial insemination.