In the United Kingdom, there are currently only two giant pandas, who live at the Edinburgh Zoo. Despite several attempts to reproduce naturally each year, they have unfortunately failed every time.

Artificial Insemination 

The team at the zoo decided to artificially inseminate the female panda, called Tian Tian. This would give the British a better chance of having the first birth of a giant panda cub on English soil.

Giant pandas have very low hormone levels and in addition to that, they are fertile only for a few days in the year. Because of this, their reproduction rate is very low. Unfortunately as there aren’t as many births, the survival of the species is threatened.

Pseudo Pregnancies 

It is not possible to tell if Tian Tian is pregnant by monitoring her behaviour because giant pandas experience pseudo pregnancies. Therefore if she sleeps more, spends more time in her cubbing den or eats more it does not mean she is pregnant.

Giant pandas can only raise one cub in the wild; they often give birth to twins and one is left to perish. If this happens in the zoo, the second cub will be raised by the keepers.

Urine Samples

Zoo keepers have been taking urine samples from Tian Tian to analyse hormone and protein levels on a daily basis. This allows them to predict if she is pregnant and when she is likely to give birth and if she is likely to carry to full term.  

Tian Tian and her partner, Yang Guang, arrived in the UK from China in 2011. They have adapted rather well to their new home!

Source: 20minutes & edinburghzoo.org 

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