AS TEMPERATURES have risen across the UK, so has Sweetie the panda’s hormones and the countdown is now on to her potential breeding date.
The first increase in Tian Tian’s oestrogen and a dip in her progesterone has been identified by Edinburgh Zoo and their team of experts.
Now in the lead up to oestrus, it is predicted that Sweetie will be in the mood for love next week – probably as soon as Tuesday or Wednesday.
Yang Guang will be put in with Tian Tian after her hormone levels rose
Female pandas ovulate just once a year and then there is a narrow window of just 36 hours in which they can get pregnant.
Now that Tian Tian is almost ready to hopefully let nature take its course, it is all systems go at Edinburgh Zoo. The Zoo is continuing to monitor Tian Tian’s hormones and behaviour very closely to ensure they know when the right moment has arrived.
Iain Valentine, Director of Research and Conservation, said: “We’ve seen behavioural changes in Tian Tian over the last week or so – calling out to Yang Guang, going up to the grate between the two enclosures and spending time in her pond to cool her internal system down – and now her hormone levels are changing too.
“Based on the data we have, we believe our female panda will probably be ready to mate early next week – likely on the Tuesday or Wednesday.
“We have hopes that they will breed, but it’s totally up to them. On day one, both pandas will be put into the same enclosure, with Yang Guang going to Tian Tian.
“Likely only for around 15 minutes, our expert keepers will be on hand to separate the two bears if the sparks fly just a little too much, as at the end of the day, both are powerful and dangerous animals and it’s not uncommon for pandas to attack each other after or instead of mating.
“We will introduce them up to three times on the first day. If all goes well, we will continue to encourage natural mating on day two as well.
“If natural mating doesn’t occur on day one, we will consider artificial insemination.
“We are extremely excited here at Edinburgh Zoo, and look forward with a mixture of excitement and anticipation to the events of next week. We are hopeful of a positive outcome, however we are realistic that this is only the very first year that Tian Tian and Yang Guang have been in Scotland and that we also have ten more to go.”
Valentine continued: “If Tian Tian does get pregnant, confirmation of this may also not be straightforward. Female pandas often have pseudo pregnancies, where their behaviour and hormones indicate they are pregnant for fairly long periods of time, when in fact they’re not.
“Also, experts do not know how long panda gestation periods actually are, as female pandas practice delayed implantation. Panda pregnancies can be anything from 85 to 100 days. If Tian Tian and Yang Guang mate next week, it might not be until mid-July before positive or negative results can be confirmed.
“We understand that the whole country is in a state of heightened anticipation, but whatever the outcome of next week, we as animal conservationists and scientists have learnt a huge amount in such a short time about this captivating species. We are just delighted to be playing our part in the essential long term worldwide panda breeding programme.”