TIAN Tian’s latest “miscarriage” will deal a multi-million pound blow to the Capital’s economy, tourism chiefs have warned.
Hopes are fading that Edinburgh Zoo’s giant panda will give birth to a cub following a set of “atypical” test results which have left keepers fearing the worst.
It’s predicted a new arrival would have been worth an extra £30 million to the city’s economy on the back of a 30 per cent hike in tourist footfall.
Panda fans were likely to have flocked from across the world to meet the first of the bears to be born on British soil had Tian Tian – who also lost a cub last year – given birth on Sunday’s due date.
Robin Warsnop, the chair of Edinburgh’s Tourism Action Group, said the news came as a disappointment to business owners.
He said: “It would have been a huge boost for Edinburgh, and been great for tourism. But rather than look at this as a blow to the city, it’s more of a good opportunity that we’ve missed.”
Experts at the zoo said they first started to fear something was amiss with Tian Tian’s pregnancy towards the end of last week following her artificial insemination in April.
Iain Valentine, director of giant pandas, said: “Although it is still very new, the scientific data does suggest that the last point she should have gone into labour was over the weekend. Unfortunately, this did not happen.”
But he added that her progesterone levels remained relatively high – indicating there’s still a chance she could give birth.
And according to Megan Owen, a panda expert at San Diego Zoo, Tian Tian’s keepers won’t know whether the panda will give birth until just a few hours beforehand.
“The female typically won’t display signs until 12 hours before she’s ready to give birth, when her behaviour starts to shift dramatically,” she said. Until that time, it’s difficult to tell whether it will actually happen.”
However, Laura Doty, whose zoo in Memphis specialises in the type of hormone tests conducted on Tian Tian at the weekend, said the birthing window was shrinking rapidly.
“Panda due dates are a tricky business,” she said. “Tests used to determine the due date are generally pretty spot on, but it’s not an exact science, since the gestation period can vary greatly, from animal to animal.
“There is still an opportunity, for sure, but it’s not a great chance.”
Mr Valentine also stressed that Tian Tian had never “faked” her pregnancy, following reports another panda in China pretended to be expecting in order to improve her living conditions.
He said: “The results of cutting-edge scientific analysis have shown that, across the entire pregnancy, Tian Tian had the profile of a pregnant panda likely to carry to full term.”