Yang Guang, a male giant panda, at its enclosure in Edinburgh Zoo
Credit: David Moir Reuters 

Edinburgh Zoo has announced it will not attempt to breed its giant pandas this year as keepers take time to study why programmes elsewhere have succeeded while they keep failing.

The Scottish team has been trying to mate Chinese pandas Tian Tian (sweetie) and Yang Guang (sunshine) naturally and through artificial insemination since 2012.

However during that time zoos in France, Belgium, China and the US have all succeeded in producing panda cubs, as part of a world-wide effort to conserve the threatened animals.

China recently succeeded in breeding a wild panda with an animal in captivity, which they believe could be the key to keeping the gene pool more diverse and improving the chance of a pregnancy. 

It was thought Tian Tian was pregnant last year, after her hormone levels spiked, but in September keepers realised she was not expecting. 

Now the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS) has decided to suspend its breeding programme so it can study new scientific data and practices around the world. It also wants to improve the panda enclosure so it is more suitable for mating.

The team successfully bred a polar bear cub late last year after allowing its adults to spend more time together, following new scientific information.

A spokesman for RZSS said: “We will not attempt to breed our giant pandas this year because we want to further assess the incredibly complex and unpredictable breeding process.

“This pause, which is supported by our giant panda team and other key specialists, will allow us further time to consider the scientific data, our own experiences and those of colleagues around the world, including the latest thinking on giant panda accommodation.

“It will also enable us to make some enhancements to our giant panda enclosure which would not have been practical either during or between breeding seasons.

“We very much hope Tian Tian has a cub in the future and will be thrilled if this happens.”

In 2008 the zoo first announced it was in negotiations to bring a pair of giant pandas to Scotland.

The black and white bears arrived on loan from China in December 2011 and are due to remain at Edinburgh Zoo for a decade.

Tian Tian has had cubs before in China so keepers know she is able to become pregnant.