Edinburgh, Fife & East Scotland

Edinburgh Zoo giant pandas fail to mate

Edinburgh Zoo's two giant pandas have spent a second day in a "series of encounters" but have failed to mate.

Officials at the zoo said Tian Tian and Yang Guang had shown interest in each other but had not taken things further.

The zoo said if Tian Tian's hormones are still partially elevated, the pandas may be put together for one last time early on Thursday morning.

But hopes were fading that a baby panda would be born in Scotland this year.

Female pandas ovulate just once a year, with only a 36-hour window in which they can get pregnant.

Panda pregnancies can last for anything between 85 and 100 days.

The zoo has confirmed it will not use artificial insemination if the pandas fail to mate successfully this year.

Tian Tian and Yang Guang had been kept in separate enclosures since arriving in Scotland in December.

Based on a combination of hormone testing and behavioural observation over several weeks, experts at the zoo decided that this week was the right time for the pandas to meet.

Edinburgh Zoo's director of conservation, Iain Valentine, said that when the animals were brought together in the same enclosure there had been a "huge amount of eagerness and attraction" between them.

But he said full mating did not occur, despite the fact that both pandas had bred before and had borne cubs with other mates.

Mr Valentine said the attempt to mate the pair was a ten-year project and that this year's interaction had been a "fantastic trial run."

He added: "There was lots of vocalisation and encouragement from our female and physical contact between the two.

"Although both have bred before and have borne cubs with other pandas, they are both still relatively inexperienced.

"At the end of the day, this is year one of a ten year conservation project here at Edinburgh Zoo. We are hugely encouraged by how much the natural sparks flew between the two animals, as like humans, not all male and female pandas are attracted to each other. Both were keen to mate, but their inexperience showed.

"Baby cubs would have been a bonus this year, but we have to appreciate that the pandas have only just arrived and have had limited time to settle."

More on this story

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites