April 05, 2012
Female panda Tian Tian.
SCOTTISH zookeepers will be hoping love is in the air as Britain's only pandas come face-to-face for a second time as part of an ambitious mating program.
Keepers at Edinburgh Zoo opened a ''love tunnel'' between male Yang Guang and female Tian Tian's enclosures yesterday as they hoped to speed up the mating process.
Female pandas ovulate just once a year, giving the pair a window of just 36 hours in which to conceive, after tests showed she had ovulated.
The bears were introduced yesterday and, despite being brought together five times throughout the day, failed to mate. However, the zoo says there were ''encouraging'' signs, with Yang Guang mounting Tian Tian as the pair wrestled. Tian Tian ''called out incessantly to Yang Guang'' and pressed her paws and nose up to the grate separating them.
Tian Tian (Sweetie) and Yang Guang (Sunshine) arrived in Scotland from Ya'an reserve in Chengdu, China, on December 4 last year and went on show to visitors for the first time on December 16.
Earlier this month the zoo said it might stream any birth live on the internet. Edinburgh Zoo has turned off the ''panda cam'' to allow the mating process.
Speaking last week, Iain Valentine, director of research and conservation at the zoo, said: ''We are hopeful of a positive outcome. However, we are realistic that this is only the very first year that Tian Tian and Yang Guang have been in Scotland and that we also have 10 more to go.''