Edinburgh Zoo should not force pandas in captivity to breed says animal charity
An animal charity has slammed Edinburgh Zoo for forcing panda Tian Tian to conceive.
Edinburgh-based One Kind, which is opposed to breeding wild animals in captivity, has criticised the zoo for the lengths it has gone to intervene in what should be a natural process.
It is understood the female giant panda Tian Tian was artificially inseminated earlier this week using semen from the male panda Yang Guang.
The female giant panda has now undergone the invasive process several times in the last four years, without achieving a successful pregnancy.
The zoo should leave the animals in peace rather than continually forcing unnatural procedures on them
OneKind policy advisor Libby Anderson said: “It is desperately sad that the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland has chosen to subject Tian Tian to further invasive procedures for a fourth year running in a bid to produce a panda cub.
"OneKind maintains its position that attempting to breed more captive pandas in Edinburgh Zoo is misguided, when they will never return to the wild or improve protection for the wild population in their native habitat.”
Giant pandas are renowned as being the biggest crowd pullers in the zoological world, and the deal struck between China and the Zoo was intended to be extremely lucrative, although any cubs born at Edinburgh would have to be returned to China at age two.
Anderson added: “We have said time and time again that the zoo should leave the animals in peace rather than continually forcing unnatural procedures on them in efforts to breed a captive panda cub.
"After four years of unsuccessful attempts to breed, surely enough is enough.”
However Iain Valentine, director of giant pandas at the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, said it was misleading to view the management of captive and wild populations of giant pandas separately.
"The global effort to save the species is part of one overarching conservation programme with flow between the two elements," he said.
"RZSS is making a direct contribution to conservation efforts in China through its involvement in over 40 science and research projects, harnessing the collaborative expertise of international research organisations, including nine UK universities.
"These projects include monitoring panda habitats in mountain ecosystems, using DNA to understand the complexity of bamboo and learning how pandas locate each other by chemical communication in order to breed.
“We continue to believe that it is important biologically for Tian Tian, a female in her prime, to breed and reproduce and, if science can lend a hand, then it should.
"Our keepers would simply never do anything that would cause any suffering to any animals in their care. There is also every hope, based on where we currently are as a global collective, that the offspring of Tian Tian and Yang Guang will at some point go back into the wild.”