Pets & Animals

Britain awaits birth of first giant panda baby

Alan Simpson / Today
Tian Tian, seen here at Edinburgh Zoo in April.

LONDON - Britain’s only female giant panda is most likely pregnant and could give birth within the next two weeks, zookeepers in Edinburgh announced Monday.

Tian Tian, who was artificially inseminated in April, was placed under 24-hour surveillance after the latest hormone tests confirmed earlier indications that she was expecting a cub.

If she is pregnant and carries to full term, she will become increasingly restless and her waters will break – just like in human labor, the zoo said in a statement.

The news came only hours after the birth of a “vibrant” and “health” panda cub at the National Zoo in Washington D.C.

It will also be the second U.K. birth to make front pages worldwide this summer, following the birth in July of British royal baby, Prince George.

Specialist staff from China arrived in Scotland over the weekend as the zoo stepped up preparations for Tian Tian’s likely delivery.

However, confirming panda pregnancy is notoriously difficult and the zoo described the birth process itself as “very delicate.”

“What we are seeing in Tian Tian’s hormones is encouraging, but we still cannot guarantee a pregnancy or successful birth,” said Iain Valentine, Director of Giant Pandas for the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland.

“If indeed she is pregnant, this is an extremely risky time for panda pregnancies. Female giant pandas can actually reabsorb any fetuses or reject them if pregnant. If she is pregnant and carries to full term, we believe a cub or cubs could be born anytime over the next two weeks – although there are no certainties we must err on the side of caution and be on red alert from today.”

The identity of the baby panda's father will initially be unclear.

After many months of failed mating attempts between Tian Tian her prospective mate Yang Guang, she was inseminated with sperm from Yang Guang and another male from Berlin Zoo called Bao Bao.

Tian Tian appeared relaxed at the zoo Monday despite the intense attention, NBC News’ U.K. news partner ITV News reported.


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