TAIPEI - Panda experts from both the Chinese mainland and Taiwan await the result of artificial insemination procedures on two pandas after the pair failed to breed naturally on Friday.
The two pandas were gifts from the Chinese mainland to Taiwan. Improved cross-Straits ties made the pandas' journey to the island possible in 2008.
The Taipei Zoo workers collected sperm from the male giant panda, Tuan Tuan, as he did not show interest in mating, the experts said.
"Hope remains that the artificial insemination will be successful, as Tuan Tuan's sperm is sound and will impregnate Yuan Yuan," said Huang Yan, deputy chief engineer of the China Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda, who came from southwestern Sichuan province's Wolong Nature Reserve.
If the artificial efforts prove to be successful, the cubs that the pair produces will become the first pandas born on the island.
Jason Yeh, director of the Taipei Zoo, said the pandas went to heat only once a year, usually during early spring. This year, The reproductive period of Yuan Yuan (the names together mean "reunion" in Chinese), the female panda, started on January 29 after she lost her appetite and kept walking around or cooled herself down by soaking in the pool.
Tuan Tuan, who is six and a half years old, however, was not as passionate as Yuan Yuan and was interested only in feeding and sleeping. Female pandas in captivity become sexually mature earlier than their male counterparts, and their pregnancies continue for 83 to 200 days.
Huang said that Friday's failure in natural mating showed that they lacked experience but "it's a good try as it will be useful for future mating."
Yeh added that the reproduction of giant pandas had always been a problem, so artificial insemination became a common practice when breeding pandas living in captivity.
"There are many opportunities for the panda to conceive before they turn 20 years old, and the success rate will be high when they are becoming experienced," Huang said, adding that experts across the Taiwan Strait would continue to work together to monitor the female panda's physical condition.
Giant pandas are among the world's most endangered animals. Latest figures report there are about 1,590 pandas living on the wild on the mainland, with most living in mountains in Sichuan and northwestern Shaanxi and Gansu provinces. There are also 200-odd captive-bred giant pandas.
The Taipei Zoo's panda house had been closed to provide quiet for the animals while mating.