UK & World News
Panda Pregnant? Cub Watch At Edinburgh Zoo
Staff at Edinburgh Zoo are on red alert for the birth of the first pandas in the United Kingdom.
It is still unclear whether Edinburgh's female giant panda Tian Tian is actually pregnant, as it is almost impossible to detect without an ultrasound scan.
But her zoo keepers are now on 24-hour panda cub watch.
Tian Tian's hormone test results continue to indicate she is pregnant, which means she could give birth any time in the next two weeks.
The zoo's panda keepers now have access to CCTV footage at their homes and Tian Tian is being monitored round the clock for signs of labour.
Iain Valentine, Director of Giant Pandas for the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, said: "What we are seeing in Tian Tian's hormones is encouraging.
"But we still cannot guarantee a pregnancy or successful birth. If indeed she is pregnant, this is an extremely risky time for panda pregnancies.
"Female giant pandas can actually reabsorb any foetuses 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."
To keep her as relaxed as possible, Tian Tian has access to her off-show area and she is currently spending most of her time here.
This is where her cubbing box is located.
Extra insulation has also been installed in her enclosure to minimise noise.
One of her keepers, Sharon Hatton, told Sky News: "We think all the signs are very positive.
"If Tian Tian goes full term she'll become very restless and her waters will break, just like in humans.
"Then she'll start bleating and spending increased time in her nesting box."
Chinese panda keeper Haiping Hu, from the China Conservation and Research Centre (CCRCGP), arrived in Edinburgh on Saturday to be on hand if a cub or cubs are born over the next two weeks.
Miss Hu has extensive experience in assisting with panda births, especially if twins are born and one cub needs to be removed.
New incubators have also arrived and are in place in the panda nursery with keepers prepared for possible round the clock shifts to care for any cub that needs to be hand-reared.
Tian Tian and her male companion Yang Guang arrived at Edinburgh Zoo on December 4 2011 after a 5,000-mile flight from China and became the first giant pandas in the UK for 17 years.
Zoo bosses had hoped Tian Tian and Yang Guang would mate naturally when she came into season but animal experts ruled out putting them together after assessing her behaviour.
She was artificially inseminated in April using semen from Yang Guang and Bao Bao, a "genetically important" panda who died at Berlin Zoo last year.