The UK’s only female giant panda will not give birth to a cub this year, experts at Edinburgh Zoo believe.
Tian Tian was artificially inseminated for the third time in March and was thought to have conceived.
But despite the panda still showing signs of being pregnant, the zoo now believes Tian Tian lost the cub.
It is common for giant pandas to re-absorb the foetus into the womb in the late stages of pregnancy.
Chris West, chief executive of the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS), 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 re-absorbed her pregnancy in late term.”
A team of three vets and a panda expert from China carried out the insemination on Tian Tian.
The procedure had also been carried out in each of the previous two years but she has so far failed to produce a cub.
Panda reproduction is a notoriously difficult process, with females only ovulating once a year.
The gestation period is typically five months and one or two cubs are usually born.
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 Royal Zoological Society of Scotland has made some key discoveries relating to giant panda pregnancy, which will add to the global understanding of this endangered species,” Mr West added.
“The conservation of giant pandas is a complex international effort. Although still early in the birthing season, this year we have had fantastic news from the National Zoo, Washington, and Zoo Negara in Malaysia.
“Our hopes and best wishes are now with Memphis Zoo and Ocean Park Hong Kong. No giant panda zoo works in isolation and success for one institution means success for the overall giant panda conservation programme.”
Tian Tian (Sweetie) and male Yang Guang (Sunshine) were the first giant pandas to live in the UK for 17 years when they arrived on loan from China in December 2011.
The panda enclosure at Edinburgh Zoo was closed to the public last week as keepers prepared for the arrival of a rare cub and is due to reopen later today.
Article taken from: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-edinburgh-east-fife-34048872