The UK’s only female panda has been artificially inseminated at Edinburgh Zoo in a new attempt to produce a cub.
Keepers are hoping Tian Tian, who once gave birth in China in 2007, falls pregnant again.
Experts said the procedure went well and that the 80kg bear “is in good health”, but warned that “it is too early to know if she is pregnant”.
Her male companion, Yang Guang, is unable to mate with her since the removal of his testicles in November 2018 due to the presence of tumours.
A spokesperson for Edinburgh Zoo said: “Tian Tian had her annual health check this morning and was artificially inseminated under expert veterinary care.
“We are pleased to say that all went well, though it is too early to know if she is pregnant at this very early stage.
“Tian Tian gave birth once before in 2007 and it really would be incredible for her to experience being a mother again.
“We will all be keeping our fingers crossed.”
They added: “We will only know for certain that Tian Tian is pregnant if she gives birth later this year.
“There is no definitive panda pregnancy test and giant pandas can delay implantation of fertilized eggs as well as having pseudopregnancies which mimic real pregnancies, all of which makes it very difficult to predict if and when they may give birth.”
Earlier this year it was reported that the giant pandas may have to return to China in 2022 at the end of their ten-year contract with the Chinese government due to financial pressures.
The Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, which runs both Edinburgh Zoo and the Highland Wildlife Park, faced enormous financial pressure when it was forced to close for three months in 2020 due tothe pandemic.