Giant panda Tian Tian 'is pregnant', says Edinburgh Zoo

Aug 12, 2014

Is she is or isn't she? Speculation continues, as do questions about a baby panda's influence on independence

Andy Buchanan/AFP/GettyImages

Scotland's giant panda Tian Tian is believed to be pregnant, Edinburgh Zoo has announced

Tian Tian (sweetie) and her partner Yang Guang (sunshine) are on a decade-long loan from China and specialists have been attempting to breed from the pair since 2011.

Is the zoo sure she is pregnant this time?

Kind of. The latest scientific tests, which include the analysis of protein and hormone levels, give a "strong indication" she is pregnant, but experts won't be certain until she actually gives birth. Behavioural changes alone are not a good enough indicator as giant pandas often experience 'pseudo pregnancies'. "This is all very new and complex science," warned Ian Valentine, director of giant pandas for the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland.

When is she expected to  give birth?

If she is pregnant and does not miscarry, Tian Tian is expected to give birth at the end of the month – just in time for the independence referendum. If she does, her cub will be the first giant panda ever born in the UK.

How did she become pregnant?

The goal of the panda exchange is to increase the number of pandas in captivity, but unfortunately Tian Tian and her partner Yang Guang failed to take an interest in one another. Scientists were forced to carry out artificial insemination in mid-April.

Are they sure she will give birth?

Sadly not. Last year Tian Tian was unable to carry her pregnancy to term after the foetus was 'reabsorbed', a common occurrence in giant pandas both in the wild and captivity. "As like last year, the late loss of a cub remains entirely possible," Valentine said.

But experts will do whatever they can to ensure Tian Tian does not suffer another miscarriage. "Two of our Chinese colleagues are due to travel to Scotland in mid-August and we continue to monitor and wait," he said.

So, could a baby panda influence the referendum?

The pandas were already a part of the independence debate before the pregnancy, with unresolved questions surrounding their fate if Scotland split from the union, the BBC reports. 

But as the latest news broke, commentators wondered if the "new arrival could be just what the nationalists ordered".

Even Sky News journalist Tom Boadle questioned whether the timing of Tian Tian's pregnancy might be more than just a happy coincidence for independence campaigners.

Sign up for our daily newsletter