Panda Tian Tian once again not pregnant, Edinburgh Zoo confirms

Tian Tian at Edinburgh zoo. Picture: Scott Heppell
Tian Tian at Edinburgh zoo. Picture: Scott Heppell
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Edinburgh zoo’s world-famous panda Tian Tian is once again not pregnant, as the seventh attempt at insemination in eight years has failed.

Tian Tian, the UK’s only female giant panda, was artificially inseminated at the end of March, in the hope that she would produce a cub.

Since arriving at Edinburgh Zoo in 2011, Tian Tian has been naturally mated once and artificially inseminated six times.

She was brought to the zoo with a male panda, Yang Guang, as part of a conservation breeding programme for the species, which was at that time classed as ‘endangered’ by the World Wildlife Fund.

But after years of failed attempts the breeding programme between Yang Guang and Tian Tian was suspended last year.

Yang Guang had both testicles removed in November 2018 after tumours were discovered by keepers.

Charlotte MacDonald, RZSS Director of Conservation and Living Collections said: “Tian Tian was artificially inseminated at the end of March and we now know this was not successful.

“Giant panda breeding is an incredibly complex, unpredictable process and we will continue to share our research with our colleagues in China. It is too soon to say what any next steps will be.”

Tian Tian and Yang Guang are on loan to Edinburgh zoo from their native China for ten years from 2011, for an annual fee of around £600,000.

Tian Tian previously gave birth to twin cubs in China, but so far all breeding attempts at Edinburgh zoo have failed.

There have been several announcements that Tian Tian is pregnant, followed just weeks later by the devastating news that this is no longer the case.

Pandas can re-absorb a foetus during pregnancy, despite having been pregnant until that point.

In 2013, 2014 and 2015 it was believed that Tian Tian was pregnant, but the pregnancy did not carry to full term.

In 2017 it was announced that Tian Tian was pregnant after secret emails from Edinburgh Zoo’s director of giant pandas to the Scottish government were leaked to the press.

Tian Tian’s fertility has captured the national interest as the cub would be the first giant panda ever to be born in the UK.