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Baby Panda at Edinburgh Zoo ?

Updated on September 9, 2013

Pandas at Edinburgh Zoo

Panda watchers wait with bated breath for the pattering of little panda paws as Yang Guang prepares to give birth to one- or perhaps two baby pandas.

The two residents- Yang Guang and his female mate Tian Tuan are housed at the £250000 purpose built Panda House at Edinburgh Zoo, including two separate enclosures for each of the pandas. The hopes are that the pair are thriving at Edinburgh although attempts to mate have failed. Tian Tian was artificially inseminated in April this year with frozen sperm from a Panda living in Germany. world experts fro,m around the globe have flown into Edinburghand are on red alert for the imminent arrival.

in Edinburgh and produce offspring: the climate in Edinburgh is very similar to their native Sichuan province, unlike other zoos where enclosures have to be climatically controlled.

The project at Edinburgh has taken five years to plan; the pair are the first pandas to live in Britain for 17 years, and delegations of experts from China have assisted the zoo to ensure that the living conditions and enclosure have been built to specifications which will ensure optimal welfare, including ten huge bullet proof plate glass windows placed to ensure minimum disturbance to the animals. Keepers and vets have also made several trips to Bifengxia Panda Centre in China to study the care and behavior from experts in China.

The pair will spend a 10 year period on loan from China's conservation authorities, at a cost of £650,000 a year.

The Pandas diet consists mainly of bamboo, some of which is grown locally, some imported from Germany, at a further cost of £70,000 per year. The pandas are already proving to be a big hit with visitors, and zoo administration are hoping that the current 80,000 visitors a year will double as a result of their new residents, perhaps even more if there are the patter of tiny panda paws.....

The existing remnants of the pandas natural habitat

The Wild Giant Panda

The Giant Panda or Ailuropoda melanoleua is native to Southwest China to the East of the Tibetan plateau. Now dwelling in mountain areas, this ancient animal was more widespread in lowland areas throughout China, Vietnam and Burma until forest clearance and farming forced them to retreat to their present mountain habitat.

The giant panda is one of the most endangered species in the world, with estimates of only 1600 individuals left living in the wild and a further 300 living in captivity, mostly in China, scattered across 20 groups confined to three provinces. Recent studies that because of climate change, 50% of the current habitat will be lost.

A fully grown Giant Panda grows to 4-6 feet tall, males being larger. A fully grown adult male can weigh up to 320lbs. Pandas become sexually mature at around six year old and can live up to 30 years in the wild.

Like many bears, the Giant Panda is a carnivore according to its pathology, but 90% of a panda’s diet consists of bamboo. The panda retains the digestive system and genetics of a carnivore but has the diet of an herbivore. The pandas gut contains large amounts of microbes which break down the cellulose found in plants, so although the bears are unable to digest the cellulose themselves; this huge portable fermentation vat allows them to utilise the energy from the bamboo.

These little understood but highly specialised adaptations are one of the reasons that the Giant Panda is such a special creature- and also accounts for the very round nature of a Pandas belly!

Pandas do not hibernate but spend a lot of their day resting and sleeping: having a plant based diet means they have to conserve energy when they can, they spend up to 10 hours a day seeking out the 20Kg of bamboo a day they need to survive.

Sichuan Province of China Giant Pandas Natural Habitat

Pandas Settle in at Edinburgh Zoo

The patter of panda feet?

Breeding Hopes

The main hope for the two Pandas at Edinburgh is that they will become a breeding pair and produce offspring.

Yang Guang, who was born in 2003, has fathered twin cubs in the past, Tian Tian has also previously given birth to twins, but the new couple has not produced offspring together.

Pandas are notoriously slow to breed; even in the wild the female panda is fertile for only a few days in a year. Males too have a breeding season, and will only become fertile for a few months of the year. Female pandas have a gestation of between 90 to 160 days- they are capable of delaying implantation and after being born the young stay with their mother for up to three years.

Typically wild pandas will only produce 4 or 5 cubs in the duration of their lifetime. Pandas in captivity notoriously lose interest in breeding. Some critics suggest that captive breeding programmes are not in the long term interest of the Panda and although lucrative for the zoos involved if successful, more efforts should be focussed into finding new and better protected habitats for wild pandas.

Attempts a at the first successful union at Edinburgh earlier in 2012 failed; experts had been collecting urine samples from tian Tian on a daily basis for several months- no mean feat- and measuring her hormone levels to determine when she was fertile.

Since the insemination of the female Panda in spring this year experts are now watching around the clock for the imminent arrival of a cub.


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    • innerspin profile image

      Kim Kennedy 5 years ago from uk

      An enjoyable and informative hub. I hadn't realised it was so expensive to borrow a panda. Hope the zoo can cover the expense with more visitors. We intend having a day out to see them at some point, it's an interesting zoo, and the pandas will make another visit worth the journey.

    • Silver Fish profile image

      Silver Fish 5 years ago from Edinburgh Scotland

      Thanks Lastheart.

    • Lastheart profile image

      Maria Magdalena Ruiz O'Farrill 5 years ago from Borikén the great land of the valiant and noble Lord

      Silver Fish this is a very good hub. Informative and well done.

    • Silver Fish profile image

      Silver Fish 5 years ago from Edinburgh Scotland

      Thanks redberry-they are magnificent animals.

    • Redberry Sky profile image

      Redberry Sky 5 years ago

      Beautiful photos of these pandas, one of the most irresistible bears! And so interesting to read about them and their bashful habits. I think I saw something of Edinburgh's pandas in the news earlier this year, but your Hub has really brought them to my attention. voted up :)

    • Rusti Mccollum profile image

      Ruth McCollum 5 years ago from Lake Oswego, Oregon

      I really enjoyed this hub! panda I love Panda bears!

    • Silver Fish profile image

      Silver Fish 5 years ago from Edinburgh Scotland

      Thanks Tina, nice to see you!

    • thougtforce profile image

      Christina Lornemark 5 years ago from Sweden

      Interesting hub about these wonderful animals! I am glad that their travel went well and they seem to fit in nicely! I can imagine that the Pandas will be a big attraction at the zoo! I would rather have them in their natural habitat but sadly, they need to be protected.

      Interesting hub, voted up, up!