A DELIVERY driver who ferries panda urine samples to laboratories has spoken of his pride in helping the bears successfully mate.
Each day Steven Bruce, from Fairmilehead, journeys a 360 mile round trip to transport panda urine samples from Edinburgh Zoo to Chester Zoo’s Endocrine Laboratory.
The journey is essential for panda experts to analyse when female Tian Tian is most interested in her male, Yang Guang by looking at hormone levels.
Mr Bruce, 34, notches up 5000 miles each month on his motorbike, which is the same distance from Edinburgh to the pandas native home, China.
Citysprint Healthcare driver Mr Bruce, said: “I make sure Tian Tian’s samples are carefully transported each day and take great pride in playing a part in such an exciting and important part of the panda’s stay at Edinburgh Zoo.
“Everyone is really interested in what I do when I tell them; there is a real sense of excitement about anything to do with the pandas.
“My children are certainly very excited about what I am doing, we all have our fingers crossed for the pandas.”
A daily delivery is essential in understanding Tian Tian’s behaviour as experts believe mating could take place within the next “ten-14 days”.
Iain Valentine, director of the giant pandas for the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland said: “Interestingly, Tian Tian’s behaviour has started to change a lot over the last couple of days – she’s become grumpier, has gone off her food and has become a bit temperamental.
“Basically a different panda to how she normally is,” he said.
Mr Valentine added: “Each day Citysprint Healthcare courier urine samples from Tian Tian to Chester Zoo for testing to help pin point when she will come into season.
“We are looking for a hormone crossover that tells us, combined with behavioural observation that the 36 hour-hour breeding window is likely to be ten -14 days away.
“When the important 36 hour window is here Tian Tian and Yang Guang will meet several times to have the opportunity to mate and then, as Tian Tian finally ovulates and her hormones fall off, artificial insemination will also take place.
“If Tian Tian does fall pregnant, it will be second half of July or early August when Edinburgh Zoo experts will be able to tell by using ultrasound scans. The majority of giant panda cubs are then born at the very end of August or beginning of September.
Mr Valentine concluded: “It is crucial for these samples to arrive safely and on time each day. We also send samples on a daily basis to the Centre for Integrative Physiology at the University of Edinburgh who test for the same thing.”