Charity criticises panda cub bid at Edinburgh Zoo
An animal welfare charity has criticised Edinburgh Zoo's latest attempt to produce a panda cub through artificial insemination.
OneKind said "enough was enough" after four years of unsuccessful attempts to breed using the "invasive procedure" on Tian Tian.
Experts carried out the procedure on Sunday evening after tests showed she had reached peak fertility.
The zoo is open but the panda enclosure will remain closed until Thursday.
Tian Tian has failed to produce a cub despite repeated artificial inseminations since her arrival at the zoo with a male panda, Yang Guang, in 2011.
Libby Anderson, OneKind policy advisor, said: "It is desperately sad that the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland has chosen to subject Tian Tian to further invasive procedures for a fourth year running in a bid to produce a panda cub.
"OneKind maintains its position that attempting to breed more captive pandas in Edinburgh Zoo is misguided, when they will never return to the wild or improve protection for the wild population in their native habitat."
"We have said time and time again that the zoo should leave the animals in peace rather than continually forcing unnatural procedures on them in efforts to breed a captive panda cub.
"After four years of unsuccessful attempts to breed, surely enough is enough."
The zoo defended its attempts at breeding pandas as important to the worldwide conservation effort.
Iain Valentine, director of giant pandas for The Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, said: "It is simply incorrect and misleading to view the management of captive and wild populations of giant pandas separately.
"The global effort to save the species is part of one overarching conservation programme with flow between the two elements.
"We continue to believe that it is important biologically for Tian Tian, a female in her prime, to breed and reproduce and, if science can lend a hand, then it should.
"Our keepers would simply never do anything that would cause any suffering to any animals in their care.
"There is also every hope, based on where we currently are as a global collective, that the offspring of Tian Tian and Yang Guang will at some point go back into the wild."
The two giant pandas arrived in Scotland in December 2011 and are being rented by Edinburgh Zoo from the Chinese government for a decade for an annual fee of about £600,000.
Tian Tian had previously given birth to twins in China but all attempts to produce a cub at Edinburgh Zoo have failed.
Zoo staff believe she may have been pregnant on a number of occasions but pandas sometimes re-absorb the foetus during the course of the pregnancy.