Tian Tian the Edinburgh panda is no longer pregnant, zoo reveals

Bear is believed to have conceived a cub after being artificially inseminated

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The Independent Online

Edinburgh Zoo panda Tian Tian is no longer thought to be pregnant after apparently losing her cub.

The UK’s only giant panda was artificially inseminated for the third time earlier this year and vets say she conceived a cub but do not know definitively whether or not she became pregnant.

The zoo said the window for her pregnancy has now passed and they believe Tian Tian “resorbed her pregnancy in late term”, as is common in giant pandas.

Chris West, chief executive of the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, said: "Based upon our scientific data, the window has now passed during which Tian Tian would have given birth; therefore RZSS has to advise that we now do not believe that our female giant panda will have a cub.

"Tian Tian is still showing behaviour of a pregnant panda, being sleepy and off her food, but we now must assume she has resorbed her pregnancy in late term.

"It is believed that resorption is a common occurrence in giant pandas, as it is in other species, and may well be the true explanation behind many so-called 'fake' pregnancies."

Three vets and a Chinese panda expert carried out the insemination in March after the procedure failed in each of the last two years.

Panda reproduction is notorious for its inefficiency as female pandas only ovulate for one week every year.

The gestation period is typically five months and one or two cubs are usually born during this time.

Wild pandas are believed to give birth every two years but in captivity pandas appear to be either unable or unsure how to mate, according to the American National Zoo.

 

Experts believe that because male pandas in particular rarely grow up around other pandas they never see others mating and do not know how to do it, according to the Week.

Mr West said the zoo had carried out "the world's most comprehensive hormone analysis of an individual female giant panda" as they tracked any potential pregnancy.

"We are also hopeful that the RZSS has made some key discoveries relating to giant panda pregnancy, which will add to the global understanding of this endangered species," he said.

Tian Tian - meaning Sweetie -and her mate, Yang Guang - Sunshine - were the first giant pandas to live in the UK for 17 years when they arrived on a 10-year-loan from China in 2011.

Additional reporting by PA

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