Panda-monium as zoo and animal rights charity fall out

Tian tian credit the land web

Tian Tian

Credit: The Land

OneKind calls for halt to giant panda breeding programme at Edinburgh Zoo as The Royal Zoological Society of Scotland claims it has a duty of care to save the species

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2nd September 2014 by Paul Cardwell 0 Comments

A storm has erupted between an animal protection charity and The Royal Zoological Society of Scotland over continued attempts to breed giant pandas.

OneKind blasted the society following reports its latest efforts to produce a cub at Edinburgh Zoo were unsuccessful.

The charity called for a halt of the breeding programme criticising the zoo for artificially inseminating Tian Tian, one of two pandas on loan from China, twice in two years.

OneKind policy director Libby Anderson said: “Unlike a human mother who makes the choice to undergo artificial insemination, Tian Tian has no say in whether she has these procedures. 

“OneKind has always believed that it is misguided to attempt to breed more captive pandas when they will never return to the wild or improve protection for the wild population in their native habitat.”

Unlike a human mother who makes the choice to undergo artificial insemination, Tian Tian has no say in whether she has these procedures

Anderson added: “We are sorry to hear that this pregnancy has not worked out. But we think that now is the time to leave these animals in peace.”

The Royal Zoological Society of Scotland hit back saying it believes it has a duty of care to save the species which had no issue with breeding until man intervened in their environment.

“Tian Tian has had artificial insemination twice in two years,” a spokesperson for the society told TFN.

“Her hormones and behaviour both showed that she wanted to be mated.

“In the wild giant pandas adopt a multiple mating strategy, where they mate with more than one partner during the breeding window. As we only have one set of pandas, the next best solution is artificial insemination.”

The spokesperson for the society said it had not heard from OneKind directly but added it is willing to speak with it, particularly over the claim giant pandas bred in captivity will never return to the wild.

The spokesperson continued: “In the last two years, a male and female panda have been re-introduced into the bamboo forest reserves in Sichuan Province.

“They are being closely monitored using tracking devices so we will know if they survive, mate and breed, either with wild pandas or each other.

In the last two years, a male and female panda have been re-introduced into the bamboo forest reserves in Sichuan Province

“It's a slow process but the experience gleaned from experts around the world in caring for pandas in captivity has shaped the form of release and hopefully over time, more will be suitable for re-introduction.”

Tian Tian and male giant panda Yang Guang were brought to Edinburgh Zoo in 2011.

They failed to mate in 2012 so Tian Tian was artificially inseminated in 2013 and 2014.

Both times she showed signs of pregnancy but failed to produce a cub.

They are both due to return to China at the end of a 10-year loan period which costs £600,000 annually.

As part of the deal, any cubs will remain in Edinburgh for two years before being sent to China.

The zoological society spokesperson added: “Our annual payment to the China Wildlife Conservation Association, a non-profit organisation dedicated to giant panda conservation, goes towards projects for giant pandas in the wild and in captivity.

“This funding is helping to build bamboo corridors to connect isolated populations and also with research into the giant panda’s biology and ecology so we can better understand the species.”