Edinburgh Zoo pandas: Artificial insemination carried out on Tian Tian

Tian Tian Female panda Tian Tian's oestrogen levels have been rising slowly through the week

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Artificial insemination has been carried out on Edinburgh Zoo's female giant panda Tian Tian.

The zoo said panda specialists performed the procedure in the early hours of the morning.

Despite the male panda, Yang Guang, having shown "consistently encouraging behaviour" natural mating was not attempted.

A spokeswoman said the artificial insemination procedures went very much to plan and both pandas were well.

The announcement follows a week when Tian Tian's hormones showed she was approaching her 36-hour fertile period.

Ultrasound scan

Keepers had been hopeful that the pair would mate naturally but Tian Tain would also have been artificially inseminated to increase her chances of getting pregnant.

A week of waiting for panda experts

Instead of observing a sharp and continuous rise in Tian Tian's oestrogen, the observations showed the levels were bobbing up and down.

There was also, said the experts, "too much bark" in her calls.

And so, late last night, the professor of pandas made a call: at last Tian Tian was hormonally ready but her behaviour was "not conducive" to natural mating.

Throughout the past week the zoo swapped the pandas between enclosures in an effort to prepare them for mating.

Tian Tian (Sweetie) and Yang Guang (Sunshine) were also able to interact with a grate keeping them apart.

Scientists have been monitoring Tian Tian and signs that she was nearing mating season included grumpy behaviour and loss of appetite.

The zoo spokeswoman said: "Natural mating was not attempted. Yang Guang had been interested and shown consistently encouraging behaviour, however based on his many years' experience, our Chinese colleague Professor Wang felt that although Tian Tian had displayed all of the correct behaviours, she had also displayed signs that told him she would not be conducive to mating.

"Both pandas and humans are sleeping today. The procedures went very much to plan and they are both well, but will be off show until Tuesday."

If Tian Tian does becomes pregnant, confirmation will come in mid-July when experts can give her an ultrasound scan. It would then be likely that her cub, or cubs, are born at the end of August or the beginning of September.

The normal breeding season for pandas is mid-April to May.

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