Cubbing den raises pregnancy hope for Tian Tian

Edinburgh Zoo's female giant panda 'Tian Tian in her enclosure'. Pic Neil Hanna
Edinburgh Zoo's female giant panda 'Tian Tian in her enclosure'. Pic Neil Hanna
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GIANT panda Tian Tian has taken to sheltering in a “cubbing den” raising hopes among staff at Edinburgh Zoo that she is pregnant.

Zoo staff have been telling visitors “it does look good” as they continue to check on the panda’s hormone levels through blood and urine samples.

Tian Tian has had two failed attempts at breeding since arriving in the Capital from China in 2011.

Zoo bosses announced last month she had conceived, but added the embryo had not yet implanted into the womb, which meant she was not officially pregnant.

But Tian Tian’s recent behaviour has boosted staff confidence that Scotland’s first panda cub may be on its way.

One worker at the enclosure said: “We have a good feeling about it this time. We wouldn’t have closed the indoor enclosure if we didn’t.

“It’s really on a knife-edge at the moment, we could hear in a day, a week or a month. She won’t let anyone near her to do the ultrasound, if you put your arm into her enclosure she’d rip it to shreds.”

It is nearly impossible to tell if Tian Tian is carrying a cub until she gives birth, which could be as late as the end of next month, due to the peculiarities of panda pregnancy.

A staff members also told visitors at the animal enclosure: “We have been keeping her in the cubbing den so that she is relaxed and can maximise her chances of being pregnant.

“Pandas can take weeks to implant the egg, so we wanted to speed it up this year.

“When pandas conceive, the egg stays in the Fallopian tube until she decides whether or not to keep it. Sometimes she may feel too stressed, that’s why she’s off show.

“They start behaving differently when the egg implants, they eat more and sleep more and become more restless.”

It is understood the zoo will make a further announcement on Tian Tian’s potential pregnancy in the next few days.