Tian Tian: giant panda has lost her baby, says Edinburgh Zoo

Hopes for UK's first panda baby are dashed as zoo announces that Tian Tian is no longer pregnant

LAST UPDATED AT 11:26 ON Tue 15 Oct 2013

GIANT panda Tian Tian appears to have lost her baby, Edinburgh Zoo has announced.

There was much excitement about the panda's pregnancy and the prospect of the first baby panda to be born in the UK. But today the zoo has said her hormonal and behavioural signs indicate that she has lost her foetus after conceiving and carrying it until late term.

Chris West, chief executive officer for the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, told the Edinburgh Evening News that the zoo is "saddened" by the turn of events after so many weeks of waiting.

"Timings are difficult to pinpoint at this moment," he said. "We had a meeting this morning where Tian Tian's behaviour and hormone results were reviewed and [we] have come to the conclusion that it is very likely she has lost the pregnancy."

Tian Tian has now returned to the normal eating and behavioural patterns of a non-pregnant panda.

"Such a loss has always been in our minds as a very real possibility, as it occurs in giant pandas as well as many other animals, including humans," said West.

The panda enclosure at the zoo will remain closed until the end of the week, in order to give Tian Tian time to get back into her routine and offer a period of recuperation for her keepers, who had been watching the pregnant panda around the clock.

Tian Tian and a male panda, Yang Guang, arrived in Scotland two years ago on loan from the Chinese government for a decade for an annual fee of about £600,000. It has taken other research centres and zoos at least three or four years to successfully breed re-homed pandas, so Edinburgh Zoo's achievement after less than two years is "immense", said West.

He added: "New hormone research is beginning to indicate that lost pregnancies are more common in giant pandas than first thought, though at the moment no one knows why." · 

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