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    Tian Tian, a giant panda walks in the outdoor enclosure at Edinburgh Zoo, Scotland April 12, 2016

    Crushed Cub Hopes: First Giant Panda Birth in UK Dashed Again

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    Edinburgh Zoo have announced Tian Tian, their foremost panda, has once again failed to give birth to new cubs.

    It is rapidly becoming as big a part of Scottish life as haggis and whisky — the great annual expectations surrounding Britain's only female giant panda falling pregnant.

    Now just weeks after it was first revealed Tian Tian may be pregnant, Edinburgh Zoo have dashed hopes yet again by admitting she is unlikely to give birth to cubs this year as the breeding season is over.

    Indeed it is not the first time an entire nation has had its hopes of celebrating the first giant panda birth in Britain to be denied.

    No sooner has Tian Tian gone off her bambo shoots, displayed some strange behavioral habits — then, suddenly, a white puff of smoke is spotted floating above her home at Edinburgh Zoo.

    On this particular occasion, news of a possible impending birth came after a Freedom of Information request surrounding emails exchanged between the Scottish Government and the zoo top brass. They revealed she was believed to have conceived, although no exact date could be given to hear the pitter-patter sound of tiny paws. 

    ​Now zoo bosses have confirmed latest tests show that it was yet another false alarm — the fifth, not that anyone is counting — and everything was back to normal.

    Iain Valentine, director of giant pandas at the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS), said:

    "It is with sadness that we can confirm Tian Tian, Edinburgh Zoo's resident female giant panda, will not give birth to cubs this year. Our tests show that her hormone levels and behavior have returned to normal as the breeding cycle ends for this year."

    He praised the expert team of keepers, veterinary staff and others for their dedication and tenacity throughout the nine months to ensure Tian Tian received the best round-the-clock care. 

    "Her welfare is our top priority and the hard work of our expert team continues to make a significant contribution to the conservation of giant pandas internationally."

    ​Tian Tian had been artificially inseminated and had been closely monitored by experts. News of the insemination had been kept secret after five previous attempts failed to produce a cub since her arrival in 2011 along with male Yang Guang.

    Despite their specially created surroundings, the pair have, so far, failed to mate naturally, with Yang Guang displaying little interest.

    The pair, who are on loan from China, arrived in Scotland's capital city as part of a ten year deal, costing US$ 1 million annually.Barbara Smith, chief executive of RZSS, said: "There was great excitement when early tests indicated that Tian Tian was pregnant. Like everyone, we are sad that the pregnancy did not result in cubs this time around.

    ​"Giant panda breeding, she explained, is an incredibly complex, unpredictable process. Over the next few weeks, we will be working closely with our Chinese partners to review not only this year's breeding season but all the scientific data from the past five years, to help us better understand this complex process," the zoo chief added

    Tian Tian has previously given birth to twins in China but giant panda reproduction is tricky as females only ovulate once a year.


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    giant pandas, panda cub, panda, birth, Edinburgh Zoo, Scotland, United Kingdom
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