Panda Tian Tian Miscarries at Zoo After Artificial Insemination

Image: Panda Tian Tian Miscarries at Zoo After Artificial Insemination

Wednesday, 16 Oct 2013 08:09 AM

By Michael Mullins

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Panda Tian Tian has miscarried at the Edinburgh Zoo following artificial insemination, officials announced on Tuesday.

Scotland's Tian Tian nicknamed "Sweetie," not to be confused with the 275-pound male giant panda with the same name at the National Zoo in Washington D.C, had reportedly been exhibiting behavior for weeks that was consistent with her being in late-term pregnancy, according to Edinburgh Zoo officials.

"All of her hormonal and behavioral signs now indicate that she had conceived and carried a fetus until late term, but then lost it," the Edinburgh Zoo said in a statement, Britain's Daily Express reported.

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"We are all saddened by this turn of events after so many weeks of waiting," Chris West, CEO for the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, said in a statement. "Timings are difficult to pinpoint at this moment, but we had a meeting this morning where Tian Tian's behavior and hormone results were reviewed, and have come to the conclusion that it is very likely she has lost the pregnancy."

Panda pregnancies are difficult to determine, considering that females are known to exhibit signs that they are pregnant, such as hormonal surges, loss of appetite, longer sleep periods and nest building, when in fact they are not, NBC News noted.

Also, giant panda fetuses begin developing in the last few weeks of gestation.

"Up until now, Tian Tian has consistently shown signs of pregnancy – she passed a mucus plug around mid-September and began producing colostrum. She also experienced a prolonged secondary rise in progesterone," West said. "However, the veterinary team has noticed a significant decline in the amount of colostrum being produced, and over the last few days she has returned to the normal eating and behavioral patterns of a non-pregnant panda."

Zoo officials had artificially inseminated Tian Tian during her 36-hour fertile window this past spring.

Officials reportedly used sperm from two different giant pandas, Yang Guang, also known as "Sunshine," which arrived at the zoo from China in December 2011, and another male giant panda named Bao Bao.

According to NBC News, the process involved mixing frozen semen from Bao Bao and fresh semen from Yang Guang before Tian Tian was artificially inseminated with it.

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"The panda enclosure will remain closed until the end of the week, in order to give Tian Tian time to get back into her routine and provide her keepers with the chance to recuperate after this long period of waiting," West added in the statement.

An estimated 1,600 pandas are believed to still live in the wild, while another 300 live in captivity around the world.

Related stories:

Giant Panda Born Last Week at Tokyo Zoo Dies

Twin Giant Pandas Born at China Conservation Center – First of 2013

National Zoo Panda Cam Goes Dark, a Victim of Government Shutdown

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