EDINBURGH Zoo have confirmed Tian Tian the giant panda is pregnant and is due to give birth to a cub at the end of the month.
The news follows months of speculation after the panda underwent artificial insemination in April this year.
But after a long wait scientists at the zoo yesterday (Tues) revealed the complex process had been successful.
Tian Tian went through the same procedure last year in an attempt to induce pregnancy, the first time an artificial insemination had been performed on a giant panda in the UK.
But the attempt failed after the bear “reabsorbed” the foetus in late term – a common occurrence inpandas.
However, the zoo have finally confirmed the happy news that they are expected a baby panda cub, which could be here within just weeks.
Iain Valentine, Director of Giant Pandas for the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, said: “The latest scientific data suggests Tian Tian the giant panda is now pregnant and that implantation has taken place, therefore she may give birth at the end of the month.
“This is all very new and complex science and we still have a bit of time to go yet, as like last year, the late loss of a cub remains entirely possible.
“Just to recap, artificial insemination was carried out on female giant panda Tian Tian on Sunday 13 April 2014.
“Our team of internal and external experts have continued to analyse specific hormone and protein levels on a daily basis in Tian Tian’s urine.
“In simplistic terms, when this information is studied retrospectively this allows us to predict if she is pregnant, if she is likely to carry to full term and when she is likely to give birth.
“It is very likely that we will not know 100% if Tian Tian is pregnant until she gives birth; however very new scientific tests will give us a strong indication, they are just too new to be definitive.
He added: “Monitoring a female giant pandas behaviour – for example if she is sleeping a lot, eating more or spending time in her cubbing den – is not an indicator of if she is pregnant or otherwise, as giant pandas experience pseudo pregnancies and she will show ‘pregnant’ type behaviour whether she is pregnant or not.
“Two of our Chinese colleagues are due to travel to Scotland in mid-August and we continue to monitor and wait.”
Following tradition of panda zoos across the world a new cub would only be revealed to visitors on January 1 2015.
And following Chinese tradition, the cub would not be given a name until 100 days after its birth.
Giant pandas going through labour only start to show signs 24 hours before the birth – Tian Tian will seem restless, start to bleat and then her waters will break.
Pandas often give birth to twins, but only raise one of the cubs at a time.
But if Tian Tian gives birth to twins the rejected cub will be hand reared by keepers.
Panda cubs are born pink and covered in short, sparse white hair.
When the cub turns two it will go back to China, mimicking the natural age it would leave its mother in the wild.
Visitors to the zoo today spoke of their excitement at the news.
Sue Chapman, 50, and her husband Dave, 53, said they had come to the zoo especially to see thepandas.
Mrs Chapman, from Baldock in Hertfordshire, said: “It’s fantastic – and great for Scotland.
“It’s really exciting news.
“We came to the zoo today especially to see them – we got tickets especially for the pandas.”
Lindsay Kerry, 39, from Nottingham, had travelled through to Edinburgh from a mountain biking holiday in Peebles in order to visit the zoo with her husband and their two children – Benjamin, 10 and Jacob, 8.
She said: “Its quite exciting – we’ve come through from Peebles today just for the zoo.”
Her sister-in-law Jo Kerry, 43, from York, was also visiting the zoo with her three children Izzy, 13, Freddie, 10, and Euen, 6.
She said: “This is the first time we’ve been to the zoo – and we came to see the pandas.
“It’s very exciting.”
Elsewhere, Hilda Leung, 18, and her friend Jamie Cheung, 20, were visiting the zoo as part of a two-day stay in Edinburgh.
Mrs Leung, from Newcastle, said: “It’s exciting. They’re a big attraction at the zoo.
“If she had cubs, it’s definitely something we would come back and see.”
Iain Valentine, Director of the Giant Panda Programme at Edinburgh Zoo, said Tian Tian could be expected to give birth to her cub on 28 or 29 of August, following a gestation period of between 24 and 30 days.
And a dedicated team of 8 or 9 people will be on hand to help the panda deliver the cub – including twopanda experts due to arrive from China next week.
He said: “We’re very excited.
“The whole panda breeding project is always interesting and exciting and this is a key moment.
“We know she’s pregnant – we are using three tests and when you take them together we know what is going on.
“All the tests are pointing towards pregnancy.
“But there is no absolute test for pandas.”
He added: “It’s really important for Tian Tian.
“She’s a female panda who wants to breed.
“She’s done it before and wants to do it again.
“And for us – it’s the UK’s first panda cub.
“The cub will be massively popular. In 2012 when the pandas came the visitor numbers jumped.
“In the last two years, one and a half million people have come to see the pandas.”
Asked what made this time different from last year’s failed pregnancy, he said: “There’s a difference between this year and last year.
“The tests are giving a different set of results and her behaviour is more promising.
“It could still go wrong, but where we are at just now is different from where we were at this time last year.”