Edinburgh Zoo panda cub to be kept under wraps

Tian Tian. Picture: Greg Macvean
Tian Tian. Picture: Greg Macvean
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The Capital’s panda cub will not be paraded before the public before New Year – assuming mum Tian Tian delivers her baby tomorrow.

In keeping with Chinese tradition, the UK’s first panda cub would not be unveiled at Edinburgh Zoo until January 1 – when it would be around three months old.

Zoo bosses said they plan to adhere to the custom as it also emerged the cub’s father, Yang Guang – who shares enclosures with Tian Tian – may never get to meet his offspring.

Panda expert Megan Owen, of San Diego Zoo which bred a cub on July 2012, said there is every chance the father may never be allowed to meet his new cub.

“After conception, the father’s job is done,” she said.

“Because pandas live solitary lives in the wild, the males generally don’t interact with, or ever meet, their cubs.”

She explained that staff may not be aware the birth has taken place until they hear the cub’s “first squawk”.

Last week, Dr Frank Goeritz, the German scientist who artificially inseminated Edinburgh’s female panda, reportedly said the latest hormone test indicated that the panda birth – or P-Day – would occur tomorrow.

While Tian Tian’s keepers pointed out they were unable to verify the exact date she would be giving birth, a spokeswoman for the zoo said they had their “fingers crossed” the cub would arrive this weekend.

A number of measures have already been taken in order to maximise Tian Tian’s chances of undergoing a successful labour.

A no-fly zone is reportedly being observed around the zoo to avoid disturbing the heavily-pregnant mother, while Tian Tian was also removed from public viewing earlier this month.

Meanwhile, experts are still speculating as to whether the city can expect to see two panda cubs arrive tomorrow.

Pandas typically give birth to twins in the wild. Yet because they are only able to raise one at a time, the mother often leaves the second twin to perish. If a second cub is born, it will be hand-reared by keepers at the zoo.

Ten-year-old Tian Tian has successfully bred twins already – in 2009 before she travelled to the Capital.

Panda cubs are born pink and covered in short, sparse white hair and with their eyes tightly shut. They cry loud and often, and start to show patches of black hair after several weeks.

In following another Chinese custom, a zoo spokeswoman said the cub would not be named for 100 days.

“That’s something we plan on observing,” she said.

Under the terms of the agreement the zoo has with China, after the cub is unveiled to the public in January, it would be forced to return it within two years – the age it would fend for itself in the wild.