Edinburgh Zoo pandas ‘ready to mate next week’

Yang Guang shows off while spreading his scent around Tian Tian's enclosure. Picture: Joey Kelly
Yang Guang shows off while spreading his scent around Tian Tian's enclosure. Picture: Joey Kelly
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Some people spend hundreds of pounds on expensive fragrances in an attempt to attract a mate.

But au naturel is the preference of love-struck pandas Tian Tian and Yang Guang, who have been getting used to each others scents.

Keepers at Edinburgh Zoo have let male panda Yang Guang into Tian Tian’s outdoor enclosure for a wander as the countdown continues to the day it is hoped they will mate.

And judging by his antics, it was an exciting visit for Yang Guang – who performed a couple of gymnastic moves on the climbing frame while Tian Tian remained indoors.

A spokeswoman for the zoo said: “Yang Guang had a really exciting day.

“He was doing roly polys on her climbing frame and there was a lot of scent marking and rolling around.

“At one point he rested his chin on the rocks of her pond. How long he stays in the enclosure is up to him and he stayed in there for a good hour.”

Last week zoo bosses revealed Tian Tian had ‘gone off her food’ and ‘become a bit temperamental’, which is believed to be an ­indication that she is beginning to warm to her prospective mate.

In recent weeks, keepers have been carrying out daily hormone tests on Tian Tian in a the hope they will know exactly when the 36-hour window of opportunity for breeding arrives.

And after seeing a spike in her hormone levels they now believe the giant pandas are likely to be ready to breed next week.

Tian Tian has also already started calling out to Yang Guang.

Chemical cues and signals play a major role in breeding – giant pandas are solitary animals and are very much dependent on scent marking as a means of communication between them.

The zoo spokeswoman said: “It’s really important for Yang Guang to come into contact with all of Tian Tian’s scents and smells.

“And she will come out afterwards and will be able to smell that he has been there.

“In the wild, the female pandas would mate with the biggest, strongest bears.

“Through his scent marking, Yang Guang will be able to let Tian Tian know that he is a strong male bear in his prime.”

Enclosure swapping will continue and increase in frequency right up until the peak of the season. Tian Tian and Yang Guang have both bred before, although not with each other.

Once the all-important 36-hour window arrives, Tian Tian and Yang Guang will meet several times to have the opportunity to mate.

And then, as Tian Tian finally ovulates, artificial insemination will also take place.

If Tian Tian does fall pregnant, it will be the second half of July or early August before experts at Edinburgh Zoo will be able to tell by using ultrasound scans.

The majority of giant panda cubs are then born at the very end of August or beginning of September.

Breeding in captivity has become vital to the giant pandas’ survival because of the destruction of bamboo forests in China and south-east Asia.