Visitors to Edinburgh Zoo have told of their excitement at the news that giant panda Tian Tian is pregnant.
The news comes at the third attempt after the previous two failed.
Sue Chapman, 50, and her husband Dave, 53, said they had come to the zoo especially to see the pandas.
Mrs Chapman, from Baldock in Hertfordshire, said: “It’s fantastic - and great for Scotland.
“It’s really exciting news.
“We came to the zoo today especially to see them - we got tickets especially for the pandas.”
Lindsay Kerry, 39, from Nottingham, had travelled through to Edinburgh from a mountain biking holiday in Peebles in order to visit the zoo with her husband and their two children - Benjamin, 10 and Jacob, 8.
She said: “Its quite exciting - we’ve come through from Peebles today just for the zoo.”
Her sister-in-law Jo Kerry, 43, from York, was also visiting the zoo with her three children Izzy, 13, Freddie, 10, and Euen, 6.
She said: “This is the first time we’ve been to the zoo - and we came to see the pandas.
“It’s very exciting.”
Elsewhere, Hilda Leung, 18, and her friend Jamie Cheung, 20, were visiting the zoo as part of a two-day stay in Edinburgh.
Mrs Leung, from Newcastle, said: “It’s exciting. They’re a big attraction at the zoo.
“If she had cubs, it’s definitely something we would come back and see.”
Iain Valentine, Director of Giant Pandas for the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, said: “The latest scientific data suggests Tian Tian the giant panda is now pregnant and that implantation has taken place, therefore she may give birth at the end of the month.
“This is all very new and complex science and we still have a bit of time to go yet, as like last year, the late loss of a cub remains entirely possible.
“Just to recap, artificial insemination was carried out on female giant panda Tian Tian on Sunday 13 April 2014. Our team of internal and external experts have continued to analyse specific hormone and protein levels on a daily basis in Tian Tian’s urine. In simplistic terms, when this information is studied retrospectively this allows us to predict if she is pregnant, if she is likely to carry to full term and when she is likely to give birth. It is very likely that we will not know 100% if Tian Tian is pregnant until she gives birth; however very new scientific tests will give us a strong indication, they are just too new to be definitive.
“Monitoring a female giant pandas behaviour - for example if she is sleeping a lot, eating more or spending time in her cubbing den - is not an indicator of if she is pregnant or otherwise, as giant pandas experience pseudo pregnancies and she will show ‘pregnant’ type behaviour whether she is pregnant or not.
“Two of our Chinese colleagues are due to travel to Scotland in mid-August and we continue to monitor and wait.”
In 2013, RZSS successfully performed the first artificial insemination procedure to take place on a giant panda in the UK. The team have since been able to confirm that Tian Tian did become pregnant, however most likely reabsorbed the foetus late term – a common occurrence in giant pandas both in zoos and the wild.
Pandas arrived in Edinburgh to much fanfare
When two giant pandas arrived in Britain from China in December 2011, they were greeted with the sort of fanfare normally reserved for pop stars or sporting heroes.
Hundreds-strong crowds lined the streets of Edinburgh as Tian Tian and Yang Guang were taken to the city’s zoo under police escort.
Tian Tian, whose name means ‘’sweetie’’, and Yang Guang, meaning ‘’sunlight’’, travelled to Scotland on board a specially-chartered flight dubbed the FedEx Panda Express’.
Their arrival in the Scottish capital was said to herald a “another significant chapter” in Sino-British relations as the pair became the first giant pandas to live in the UK for 17 years.
It followed almost five years of discussions between officials to secure a deal with China to loan them to the UK for a decade.
Then Scottish Secretary Michael Moore hailed them as a “huge asset”, Zoo chief Huge Roberts said it was a proud day for the visitor attraction while the Scottish Government said the loan symbolises a “growing friendship” between the two countries.
However animal welfare campaigners criticised the move, suggesting it was more to do with commercial deals and was not a credible way to go about saving the endangered species.
And their arrival also prompted questions about China’s human rights record and the moral implications of the UK’s deepening political and economic links with the country.
Research has indicated that the creatures are a lucrative asset.
Last year a report by Scottish Enterprise estimated that Tian Tian and Yang Guang will generate almost £28 million in visitor spending for the Edinburgh economy alone during their 10-year stay, with an extra £19 million spent in the wider Scottish economy.
Previously the Scottish Government said that strengthening Scotland’s relationship with China, in which the pandas have played a key role, has produced an estimated additional £220 million for the economy since the Government’s first “China Plan” was published in 2006.
The pandas were born in 2003 and lived at the Ya’an reserve in Chengdu, China.
KEY FACTS OF PANDA CUB GROWTH
• At birth, a cub is just 1,000th of its mother’s weight - around 5.3oz (150g).
• Giant panda foetuses do not start to develop until the final weeks of gestation.
• Panda cubs are born pink and covered in short, sparse white hair, their eyes are tightly shut and they cry loudly and often.
• Their black patches start to appear at around one week old, followed by black hair on the patches a few weeks later.
• It is several weeks before they can crawl and cubs spend the first few weeks of life vocalising their needs to their mother, sleeping and suckling.
• Panda mothers lick their cubs often and do not leave the cub to eat bamboo until offspring are three to four weeks old. At this point the cubs can regulate their body temperatures and do not need constant body contact from the mother to keep warm.
• After a month, the cub looks much more like a miniature adult giant panda but with a longer tail. Its eyes open partly after 30 to 45 days, and fully open a week or two later.
• Panda cubs grow to up to 10 times their birth weight in the first five to six weeks.
• By 75 to 80 days, cubs can stand and walk a few steps; they also begin to teethe at this point and their eyesight and hearing improve.
• At four months, cubs are active, run about and climb on their mother’s back to play.
• At five months, they trot behind their mothers and mimic them, eating bamboo and climbing trees.
• They start to eat solids at six months.
• A panda cub starts to get its permanent teeth at around one year old, when it will weigh around 50lb-60lb (23kg-27kg) and now only suckle once or twice a day.
• At the age of two, the cub would be returned to China, mimicking natural dispersal age in the wild.