Any giant panda cub born at Edinburgh Zoo would be claimed by the Chinese government within two years – and would only be on show to the public for 12 months.
Female Tian Tian has again been artificially inseminated, and the zoo also tried to mate the pandas naturally before the end of the short breeding season earlier this year.
It is likely to be at least August before bosses are able to say if she is pregnant – but even if she does have a cub it would be kept away from the public for several months.
And zoo bosses have confirmed any panda cub born in the Capital would go back to China within 24 months of the birth under the agreement signed to bring Tian Tian and Yang Guang to Edinburgh – and added that final approval for the cub’s chosen name would have to be given by China.
The two giant pandas are the only animals of their kind in the UK, and one of only three pairs in Europe. They were the first giant pandas to live in the UK for 17 years.
The last pandas in the UK, Ming Ming and Bao Bao, left a zoo in London in 1994 after failing to mate.
Edinburgh Zoo said part of the £600,000-a-year loan deal for Tian Tian and Yang Guang was the return of any offspring.
A zoo spokeswomkan said: “Any cub born at Edinburgh Zoo is the property of China, returning to China after two years to go back into the vital global breeding programme and also mimicking the natural dispersal age in the wild.” At that age, cubs would be independent of their mothers.
Edinburgh Zoo acquired the pandas on loan from China in 2011 and previous attempts to mate the pair have failed.
Despite the failures, which include Tian Tian losing a baby cub in 2012, the zoo, which will be visited by the Princess Royal later this year, has stressed it is “too early” to consider seeking any replacement pandas if Tian Tian and Yang Guang fail to produce any cubs.
“Panda breeding is complex and not every pregnancy leads to a cub,” stressed Mr Valentine.
“It can take time, as most giant panda zoos have found, for a cub to be born.
“We are involved in the conservation of this species as a long-term project. It is way too early to be discussing options of this nature.”
As per Chinese tradition, cubs are named 100 days after birth. Their names must mean something in both Chinese and English.
Iain Valentine, director of giant pandas for the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, said artificial insemination on Tian Tian was carried out by the expert team of three veterinarians at RZSS, alongside Chinese colleague Doctor Wang Chengdong from the China Conservation and Research Centre for Giant Pandas.
Pandas normally mate in April or May and the female gives birth in August or September. Some ecologists have argued that pandas are already doomed to extinction because their limited diet makes it impossible for them to adapt.