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Edinburgh zoo halts giant panda breeding programme Edinburgh zoo halts giant panda breeding programme
(35 minutes later)
Edinburgh zoo has suspended its giant panda breeding programme for at least a year only a few weeks after the man in charge quit his job there. Edinburgh zoo has suspended its giant panda breeding programme for at least a year, a few weeks after the man in charge quit his job.
A source at Edinburgh zoo confirmed that Iain Valentine, its director of animals, conservation and education, quit last month after more than a decade championing the pandas’ acquisition and then leading the breeding programme. Edinburgh zoo confirmed that Iain Valentine, its director of animals, conservation and education, quit last month after more than a decade championing the pandas’ acquisition and then leading the breeding programme.
The source insisted there was no connection with the decision not to try artificial insemination with Tian Tian this year, after five years of failed attempts, and Valentine’s departure. A zoo source said there was no connection between the decision not to try artificial insemination with Tian Tian this year, after five years of failed attempts, and Valentine’s departure.
Valentine’s resignation is a blow to the zoo. He had been the architect of the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland’s decision to bid for a breeding pair of giant pandas, first proposing it in 2008 despite considerable scepticism. Valentine’s resignation is a blow to the zoo. He had been the architect of the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland’s (RZSS) decision to bid for a breeding pair of giant pandas, first proposing it in 2008 despite considerable scepticism.
Tian Tian and her mate Yang Guang arrived in Edinburgh in December 2011 on a 10-year loan, as part of a £2.6bn trade deal, and were welcomed by Nicola Sturgeon, then deputy first minister of Scotland, and Michael Moore, the Scottish secretary.Tian Tian and her mate Yang Guang arrived in Edinburgh in December 2011 on a 10-year loan, as part of a £2.6bn trade deal, and were welcomed by Nicola Sturgeon, then deputy first minister of Scotland, and Michael Moore, the Scottish secretary.
Tian Tian had twins in China in 2009, but the RZSS only tried natural mating once at Edinburgh zoo, in 2012. It subsequently used artificial insemination with Yang Guang’s semen and defrosted semen from a panda that had successfully bred at Berlin zoo. Tian Tian had twins in China in 2009, but the RZSS tried natural mating only once at Edinburgh zoo, in 2012. It subsequently used artificial insemination with Yang Guang’s semen and defrosted semen from a panda that had successfully bred at Berlin zoo.
One source said Valentine had complained that military jets taking part in Edinburgh’s military tattoo would fly over the zoo during August, at a crucial moment in the panda’s pregnancy, just as she was close to birth.One source said Valentine had complained that military jets taking part in Edinburgh’s military tattoo would fly over the zoo during August, at a crucial moment in the panda’s pregnancy, just as she was close to birth.
Valentine also felt there may have been links between Tian Tian’s failure to give birth and seasonal changes in Edinburgh’s daylight levels. Because the city is further north than their natural home in China, the longer days in summer and longer nights in winter may have upset her hormones.Valentine also felt there may have been links between Tian Tian’s failure to give birth and seasonal changes in Edinburgh’s daylight levels. Because the city is further north than their natural home in China, the longer days in summer and longer nights in winter may have upset her hormones.
In a statement issued on Monday, which made no mention of Valentine’s departure, the zoo said it needed to “further assess the incredibly complex and unpredictable breeding process. The zoo said: “While giant panda breeding is an incredibly complex and unpredictable process, we have substantial expertise within our team at Edinburgh Zoo and across RZSS, as well as full support from our Chinese partners.
“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.” “The pause we have taken in breeding attempts is supported by our giant panda team and other key specialists. This 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.”
The decision may greatly cut down the time available for a successful birth, assuming the zoo opts to try again. The pandas are due to be returned in 2021 and the agreement with the Chinese also stipulated the zoo would be allowed to keep a cub for two years, which implies that it would only be able to attempt breeding again in 2019 and possibly in 2020. The decision may greatly cut down the time available for a successful birth, assuming the zoo opts to try again. The pandas are due to be returned in 2021 and the agreement with the Chinese also stipulated that the zoo would be allowed to keep a cub for two years, which implies that it would only be able to attempt breeding again in 2019 and possibly in 2020.
A zoo spokeswoman said: “At the moment it’s too soon to say at this stage about the agreement which may or may not be extended.” A zoo spokeswoman said: “At the moment it’s too soon to say at this stage about the agreement, which may or may not be extended.”
Libby Anderson, a policy adviser for the Edinburgh-based animal welfare charity OneKind, said it opposed captive breeding programmes and welcomed the zoo’s retreat. “Repeated artificial insemination is against the animals’ interests and will not contribute to the species’ restoration in the wild, because zoo-born cubs will never be released,” she said.Libby Anderson, a policy adviser for the Edinburgh-based animal welfare charity OneKind, said it opposed captive breeding programmes and welcomed the zoo’s retreat. “Repeated artificial insemination is against the animals’ interests and will not contribute to the species’ restoration in the wild, because zoo-born cubs will never be released,” she said.
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