Pandas Meet for Love Match at Zoo

pandas at Edinburgh zoo, panda breeding, panda couples, zoo pandas, endangered species news, animal news, baby animals
Stills from a video show the two bears just before the grate between them was raised. Tian Tian, the female, has her back to the camera. (Image credit: Edinburgh Zoo. )

Love (might) be in the air for a pair of giant pandas at the Edinburgh Zoo.

Keepers allowed the zoo's young female panda and young male panda to meet for the first time today (April 3), on five separate occasions.

Although each encounter was fleeting — only 5 minutes long — there were signs that Tian Tian, the female, and Yang Guang, the zoo's male panda, might be ready to be more than friends.

"Just before each meeting, Tian Tian called out incessantly to Yang Guang, and pressed her paws and nose up to the grate separating them. Her body language was also very encouraging. Yang Guang has responded promisingly each time," zoo officials wrote in a statement.

The decision to introduce the bears came after weeks of hormone testing and behavioral observation indicated the two might be ready to breed.

"Yang Guang showed little aggression during their time together, which included him mounting Tian Tian and panda wrestling!" according to a statement from the zoo.  

The bears aren't entirely new to romance. Both bears have bred in the wild in China, and have produced cubs, but they are still relatively inexperienced.

Although zoo staff called the meetings encouraging, they stressed that it's too early to know if the encounters will lead to a pregnancy.

The iconic bears, an endangered species native to China, are only fertile for three days, and breeding pandas in captivity is notoriously difficult.

The pair will be allowed to spend time together again tomorrow.

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Live Science Staff
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