A SPECIALIST panda expert has flown in from China amid growing speculation that Edinburgh Zoo’s female giant panda Tian Tian could be about to give birth.
Keepers have been unable to establish for sure whether Tian Tian is pregnant, but her hormone levels and “nesting” behaviour suggest she is.
If she is carrying a baby, the birth is expected to take place in the next couple of weeks, with the first week in September seen as the most likely.
It would be the first time a baby giant panda has ever been born in the UK.
Chinese panda keeper Haiping Hu, from the China Conservation and Research Centre, arrived on Saturday and will be on hand to assist if a cub or cubs are born.
A team of keepers at the zoo have been given access to CCTV footage in their homes and the panda is being monitored around the clock for signs of labour.
Tian Tian and male panda Yang Guang have been at Edinburgh Zoo since December 2011 on a ten-year loan from China.
It was hoped the pair would mate naturally, but when that failed, Tian Tian was artificially inseminated in April.
Earlier this month, the zoo said there were positive signs that she may be pregnant and tests suggested she may be carrying twins.
Around 500,000 people visited the zoo in the year following the pandas’ arrival. VIP visitors have included actor Nicole Kidman and the Princess Royal.