Pregnant pause: Female panda given helping hand in bid to conceive
The UK's only female giant panda has been artificially inseminated after she and her intended partner failed to mate naturally.
Edinburgh Zoo bosses were hopeful that Tian Tian would mate with male Yang Guang this year, but moved on to artificial insemination after her hormone levels started to fall quickly.
The procedure was carried out on Sunday using samples from Yang Guang.
Experts said they will not know for certain whether Tian Tian is pregnant until she gives birth, which could be in August or September.
Their hopes of a pregnancy follow last year's disappointment when the pair did not mate. Although Tian Tian was artificially inseminated, she lost her foetus at late term.
Iain Valentine, director of giant pandas for the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS), said: "From the start, when the pandas started to show breeding behaviour early this spring, both were showing very positive signs.
"We were hopeful natural mating would occur this year, but in the end Tian Tian's hormones started to fall quickly, which meant her breeding window could be much shorter.
"Although our Chinese expert Dr Wang Chengdong, from the China Conservation and Research Centre for Giant Pandas (CCRCGP), was confident the pair would mate naturally, after the first unsuccessful introduction attempt, time restrictions meant we needed to move quickly to artificial insemination.
"The artificial insemination procedure was undertaken by reproduction specialists Professor Dr Thomas Hildebrandt, Dr Frank Goeritz and Dr Robert Hermes, from the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (IZW) in Berlin, along with RZSS's veterinary and panda teams."