The Taipei Zoo stopped the artificial insemination program for its two giant pandas — Tuan Tuan (團團) and Yuan Yuan (圓圓) yesterday as the estrus cycle for the pair came to an end.
The zoo said it would learn in April whether a baby panda can be born this year.
Zoo staff and panda experts from Wolong Giant Panda Reserve Centre in China put the two pandas in the same room yesterday morning in hopes of a possible mating, but failed in the attempt even though the pair engaged in mating acts including hugging and making bleating sounds.
Huang Yan (黃炎), a panda -expert from the center in Sichuang Province, who arrived on Sunday to help with the breeding, said it was normal for Tuan Tuan and Yuan Yuan, both six years old, to fail in the mating because they only reached maturity this year and lacked sexual experience.
As to the success rate of artificial insemination, Huang said it was extremely difficult to confirm a panda’s pregnancy via ultrasound until 15 days before labor because of the small size of a panda baby, which is only about 100 grams.
As a panda’s pregnancy ranges from 70 days to five months, the panda team will work with the zoo to monitor Yuan Yuan’s situation over the next two months, giving her urine tests and ultrasounds to find out if she is carrying a baby
In response to some concerns that artificial insemination goes against nature, Taipei Zoo director Jason Yeh (葉傑生) defended the zoo’s efforts to breed the pandas, saying endangered species are mostly fostered by human beings.
“Pandas have only one estrus cycle every year, and given the fact that they are an endangered species with a low success rate of natural breeding, there’s nothing wrong with us seizing the opportunity of their estrus cycle to help with the breeding,” he said.
With the success rate of artificial insemination standing at about 60 percent, Yeh said the zoo would continue efforts to assist breeding next year if this year’s attempt failed.
The Panda Hall, which was closed since Wednesday for the pair’s breeding, will reopen today.
Huang said the giant pandas’ breeding age is from five years old to 20 years old, and the average age for successful breeding is from seven to nine years old.
“There’s a good chance that Tuan Tuan and Yuan Yuan will have a baby panda in the future, and this year’s mating experience is great practice for them,” he said.