EDINBURGH ZOO officials have refused to give up hope that female panda Tian Tian could deliver a cub – more than two weeks after her due date.
Giant panda Tian Tian was expected to deliver an historic baby on Sunday, August 31.
Alarm bells started ringing after scientific data from daily urine analysis of her hormones became “atypical”.
But the panda, and her male partner Yang Guang remain off show to visitors and officials insist there is still a slim chance she will give birth.
Iain Valentine, director of giant pandas for the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, said: “The specialist team at Edinburgh Zoo and our Chinese colleagues continue to monitor Tian Tian and she is in great health, choosing to spend most of her time sleeping.
“The scientific data indicates that her cycle is coming to an end as her progesterone is slowly falling.
“There is still a small chance that Tian Tian will give birth to a cub. This is unlikely, but scientifically we cannot rule this out until her hormone levels have returned to normal.”
Tian Tian and Yang Guang arrived on loan from China in December 2011 and are the first giant pandas to live in the UK for 17 years.
They have already had two failed attempts at breeding since they arrived, however.
To increase the chances of a cub, Tian Tian was artificially inseminated for the second consecutive year on April 13, using samples taken from Yang Guang.
Tests showed she was pregnant, and excitement grew after she started spending time in her “cubbing box”.
The pandas’ enclosures were closed to visitors as Tian Tian became increasingly sensitive to noise, and experts from China travelled to Scotland to assist in the final stages.
But results from the hormone tests were interpreted as a sign of something amiss.
Tian Tian also became pregnant last year amid great excitement, but lost the cub and most likely reabsorbed the foetus late term – a common occurrence in giant pandas both in zoos and the wild.