THE pandas at Edinburgh zoo are showing signs they may be ready to mate.
Excitement rippled round Edinburgh Zoo this morning as female panda Tian Tian took several dips in her pond.
Splashing around and enjoying the cool water in her custom built plunge pool for one, these seemingly inconsequential acts are actually a sure sign that Sweetie is starting to feel the heat and that the possible breeding of Tian Tian and Yang Guang creeps closer.
The pandas are showing behavoural signs that could indicate they are ready to mate.
Behaviour signals are now being seen in both the male and female pandas and, in nature, hormonal changes tend to be seen shortly after behavioural changes are spotted. So far no hormonal changes in Tian Tian are evident, but Edinburgh Zoo believes it’s only a matter of time.
Female pandas ovulate just once per year and are then only fertile for two days afterwards. Edinburgh Zoo is closely monitoring Tian Tian’s hormones, couriering urine samples to the UK’s top endocrinologist early each morning.
The results are fed back to the Zoo’s top animal experts every afternoon. These tests give a seven day picture of Sweetie’s hormone levels, so it’s known she won’t be going into season in the next week.
Prior to coming to Scotland, the Zoo’s female panda has tended to come into season in the last week of March or early to mid-April. Many factors determine these timings, but it might be she will continue this same pattern at Edinburgh Zoo.
Iain Valentine, Director of Research and Conservation, explained: “It’s a promising sign that Tian Tian is going into her pool. It’s not something she’s really done so far. Our Chinese colleagues have told us it’s a key sign to watch out for and she’s likely to be doing it to cool down as her body prepares for ovulation.
“Yang Guang is eating like a champion, going through twice as much bamboo each day as normal. Male pandas often do this to bulk up for the breeding season and get themselves in the best possible condition. Last night you could barely see Yang Guang for all the bamboo in his enclosure!
“His scent marking has greatly increased and Yang Guang is doing panda handstands to reach as high up as possible with his secretions to show Tian Tian how fit and virile he is. It’s very entertaining to watch. Visitors have also spotted them both with their paws up against the grate between the two outdoor enclosures at the same time, popularly dubbed the ‘love tunnel’.
“We’re very excited, but it’s important to remember that with animals and nature it doesn’t always go to plan. There are all sorts of hurdles to get through yet, Tian Tian may not ovulate as it’s not unheard of for pandas to miss a year, the pandas may not mate naturally and we might have to move to artificial insemination – who knows. We’re hopefully, but it’s just a case of being ready for all eventualities.”
Kieran Danaher, Brand Manager for Lynx, the official partner for the panda mating season, said: “This has to be one of the most exciting mating games we have ever been part of. It’s brilliant to see Yang Guang using scent to make himself more attractive, and it’s fascinating to witness Tian Tian showing off to get his attention. Since the launch of Lynx Attract ‘For Him’ and ‘For Her’ we’ve witnessed similar flirtatious behaviour all across the country – we’re hopeful that the power of the Lynx Effect has started to work its magic in Edinburgh zoo as well!”