Edinburgh, Fife & East Scotland

Edinburgh Zoo panda artificially inseminated

Tian Tian has been in Edinburgh for almost three years Image copyright PA
Image caption Tian Tian has been in Edinburgh for almost four years

The female giant panda at Edinburgh Zoo has been artificially inseminated.

The zoo is also going to try to mate the pandas naturally before the end of the short breeding season.

Edinburgh zoo acquired the pandas on loan from China in 2011 and previous attempts to mate the pair have failed.

Tian Tian, which means Sweetie, and male Yang Guang (Sunshine) were the first giant pandas to live in the UK for 17 years.

The last pandas in the UK, Ming Ming and Bao Bao, left a zoo in London in 1994 after failing to mate.

'No say'

Iain Valentine, director of giant pandas for the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, said artificial insemination took place on Tian Tian in the early hours of Thursday.

"The procedure was carried out by the expert team of three veterinarians at RZSS, alongside Chinese colleague Doctor Wang Chengdong from the China Conservation and Research Centre for Giant Pandas (CCRCGP)," he said.

"Only semen from male panda Yang Guang was used during the procedure.

"Natural mating will also be attempted today before the short breeding window comes to a close this afternoon (Thursday) as both pandas remain extremely interested in one another, but as Tian Tian's transition to peak was so rapid it was a priority to move straight to artificial insemination first."

Libby Anderson, policy director of animal protection charity OneKind, criticised the move.

She said: "Unlike a human mother who makes the choice to undergo artificial insemination, Tian Tian has no say in whether she has these procedures.

"OneKind has always believed that it is misguided to attempt to breed more captive pandas in Edinburgh Zoo when they will never return to the wild or improve protection for the wild population in their native habitat.

"We are extremely disappointed to hear that the zoo is going down the route of artificial insemination again following previous unsuccessful attempts to breed from Tian Tian.

"We think that now is the time to leave these animals in peace and OneKind has expressed this view to the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland."

An Edinburgh Zoo spokeswoman said: "It is misleading to say that any cubs born in Scotland will never return to the wild and actually a small number of captive born pandas have successfully already been released back into the wild."

She added: "As we only have one giant panda the next best step is artificial insemination."

The panda enclosure will remain closed at Edinburgh Zoo until Sunday.

Related Topics

More on this story

Related Internet links

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