Female pandas ovulate only once a year, with a short 36 hour window in which they can become pregnant, which is why it is so important that next Tuesday or Wednesday, every precaution is taken to insure that the two giant pandas resident at Edinburgh zoo
get the opportunity to begin reproduction.
Experts at the zoo claimed
they had recorded the first increase in Tian Tian's oestrogen and a dip in her progesterone.
"We've seen behavioural changes in Tian Tian over the last week or so - calling out to Yang Guang going up to the grate between the two enclosures and spending time in her pond to cool her internal system down - and now her hormone levels are changing too." Iain Valentine
, Edinburgh Zoo's director of research and conservation, said.
He said both pandas would be put into the same enclosure on the first day, with Yang Guang going to Tian Tian.
"Our expert keepers will be on hand to separate the two bears if the sparks fly just a little too much as, at the end of the day, both are powerful and dangerous animals and it's not uncommon for pandas to attack each other after or instead of mating."
He added: "We will introduce them up to three times on the first day.
"If all goes well, we will continue to encourage natural mating on day two as well.
"If natural mating doesn't occur on day one, we will consider artificial insemination."
Pregnancies within giant pandas can last anywhere between 85 to 100 days, meaning that if everything goes well next week, we could see the first giant panda birth in Britain by the end of this year.