Higher Biology - Physiology and Health

Giant Panda Cycle

Female giant pandas are mono-oestrous which means they only have one cycle per year, compared with human females which have approximately 12 cycles per year.

The fertile period in female giant pandas is only 12-36 hours (once a year) which is a relatively narrow window compared to human females which have a window of 5-7 days each month.

Just like in human females, the hormones oestrogen and progesterone play an important role in controlling the cycle.

Staff at RZSS Edinburgh Zoo have worked closely with panda breeding specialists from China and with experts from the University of Edinburgh MRC Centre for Reproductive Health at the Queen’s Medical Research Institute (QMRI).

During the breeding season, they analyse daily urine samples from Tian Tian to measure levels of oestrogen and progesterone to help work out when she enters her fertile period. They can then decide whether to breed her or perform assisted reproduction techniques such as in vitro fertilisation (IVF) and artificial insemination (AI).