Spring is in the air, Yang Guang has been doing handstands and Tian Tian is calling out to her mate – signalling that Giant Panda breeding season is approaching.
This opportunity comes along only once a year – and there are high hopes that the pair, who are on loan from China for ten years, might eventually produce cubs. As Edinburgh Zoo is celebrating its centenary this year, it would be the perfect time to announce a happy event.
Mating wasn't a complete success when the couple were first introduced to each other last April, but they might have better luck second time round.
Yang Guang is showing signs he is gearing up for mating season by making handstands against trees, walls and rocks to scent-mark – reaching as high as possible is a sign of virility. Yang Guang was born on 14 August 2003 and his name means 'sunshine'. His keepers describe him as good-natured and gentle.
Tian Tian was born on 24 August 2003 and her name means 'Sweetie' in Chinese. She is described as being mischievous in nature and quite fussy about her diet.
Almost all of the diet consists of different types of bamboo, but pandas will also eat eggs, meat, grasses and vegetables if these are available.
Giant pandas live in the mountain forests of central China. Adults are largely solitary, communicating through calls and scent marking and only meeting occasionally outside the mating season.
Female pandas are only able to conceive for two to three days in the spring. This short mating season makes successful reproduction difficult. Natural and assisted reproduction methods will be used by the zoo to give the pair the best chance of success in starting a family.
If breeding is successful, the female gives birth to one or two cubs. They are born blind and hairless. After six to eight weeks the cubs open their eyes for the first time and at three months, they are able to move around independently. Once cubs reach around two years of age, they leave their mothers and begin an independent life.
Giant Pandas are the rarest members of the bear family and one of the most endangered species in the world. Their natural habitat is under threat from destruction it is estimated that there are only 1000 – 2000 Giant Pandas remaining in the wild.
Panda viewing is included with the normal entry price top Edinburgh Zoo, but due to their popularity, visitors need to book a timed session in advance.
Current ticket prices for entry to Edinburgh Zoo (up to 18 March) are: £15.50 for adults, £11 for children aged 3-15, children under 3 are free. Family ticket for 2 adults and 2 children £47.70. Other ticket types are available. Please note all ticket prices are due to rise on 18 March 2013.
Please book your timed slot for the Giant Pandas at the same time as you purchase your tickets. Children aged 15 and under must be accompanied by an adult.