Panda laid low by colic relapse

ONE of the pandas at Edinburgh Zoo has been taken off public display again after falling ill, just weeks before zoo chiefs hope the pair may breed.

Male bear Yang Guang has been struck down with colic for the second time in a month, disappointing visitors who had booked to see him at the weekend.

Tian Tian, who has herself suffered from colic, is still on display.

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The latest bout of illness comes at a critical time for the zoo as bosses are preparing to try to encourage the pandas to breed – an opportunity which only exists once a year for a maximum three-day period.

Today, the zoo issued a statement saying the breeding preparations were “on track” and said it hoped Yang Guang would go back on display on Monday.

It is hoped that he will be better in time for the arrival of international breeding experts from China early next week, who will provide specialist knowledge to Edinburgh’s panda keepers to maximise the chances of producing a baby panda this year.

Bosses have said the likely date for the pair to be able to breed is between mid-March and mid-April.

Iain Valentine, director of conservation and research at the attraction, said: “Yang Guang has shown a few mild symptoms similar to when he had colic, so to give him more time to rest and to make sure he is in full health as the breeding season approaches, we’ve taken him off show.

“Pandas can be sensitive animals, so we need to put his needs first at this time.

“Tian Tian is in great condition and is lovely and settled. A variety of tests have given us a clear picture of where Tian Tian is hormonally and, although we’ve not quite reached the three-day breeding window yet, international experts are arriving early next week. Things are on track.

“Visitors are still able to see Tian Tian, and both her indoor area and outdoor enclosure, and we expect Yang Guang to be back on display on Monday.”

Edinburgh Zoo’s resident vet, Romain Pizzi, said colic was “not a great cause for concern” for pandas, and said it was likely that their sensitive digestion systems were adapting to eating slightly different bamboo than what they were used to at the Bifengxia Panda Base in China.

Yang Guang first suffered from a severe case of colic in early January and he was only on display a few times over the course of the month.

Two weeks after the male bear was struck, Tian Tian was found to also be suffering colic and she too was taken off display. They were both back on display by the end of January.