First Person - with Klara Louise Dixon

Klara Louise Dixon
Klara Louise Dixon

PANDA-MONIUM swept over Scotland once again last week as the annual 36 hour window opened, when Sweetie the panda could conceive.

Hourly updates from Edinburgh Zoo kept the public on the edge of their seats informing the exact times that Sweetie and Sunshine, Scotland’s greatest pairing since Irn-Bru and a Tunnocks Caramel Wafer, would be introduced into the zoo’s ‘tunnel of love’.

But perhaps the pressure of knowing the world was waiting and expecting was just too much.

If there wasn’t enough excitement surrounding the bears’ arrival to the capital at the end of last year, the possibility that there may be a baby, the first panda cub to be born in the UK, reached fever pitch.

Back in December, a welcoming party made up of Scottish Secretary, Michael Moore, Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon, Edinburgh’s Lord Provost and Chinese officials met the specially commissioned Panda Express carrying the first giant pandas to live in the UK for 17 years.

And many thousands of us not-so-furtively watched on Sky News while at work, as the famous couple, possibly rivalling Katie Price and Peter Andre for column inches, touched down.

Even the penguins hit back at the attention, depositing droppings on unsuspecting visitors.

Burden

But poor Sunshine or Yang Guang as he is known in China, does have a huge burden to bear (sorry).

For on his black and white shoulders rests the future of Edinburgh Zoo. Although a gift to Scotland, the zoo is paying £600,000 a year for the ten-year privilege and the specially built panda enclosure cost £250,000.

So the zoo is expecting a dividend of sorts from the eight-year-old pair.

A baby panda or two, would be the perfect thank you present.

Tests were taken last week to discover exactly when Sweetie had ovulated and was ready to go.

Respectfully the panda-cam was switched off for the duration of the breeding period, and visitors were not allowed into the enclosure.

Sparks flew, according to the zoo’s director of research and conservation, Iain Valentine and there was an attraction between the two, for not all pandas will mate, they are fussy just like us. Sweetie had been vocal, calling out for Sunshine and she had her paws pressed up against the grate.

They met in the tunnel of love five times on Tuesday and several times on Wednesday but it wasn’t to be.

Stick

Reports told how keepers were having to intervene as Sweetie’s tail was in the way, and a stick was being used to shift it. This was a little too much information and is going from the realms of romance to panda porn.

Retailers have been quick to jump onto the panda bandwaggon with one high street clothes shop selling panda pyjamas, socks and slippers.

A magazine showed a step-by-step beauty guide on how to create the perfect panda pout. It looks just as weird as it sounds.

Of course, it would be an exciting event for the first panda cub to be born in the UK.

Everyone loves a baby animal, but I was beginning to groan when I heard the umpteenth bulletin on the panda procreation progress.

But it was not to be, maybe poor Sweetie had a headache and wasn’t in the mood.

Or as one April fool joker said, the weather was too confusing for the pandas, with a heatwave one week and snow the next.

I, however, am only interested when the cute baby pictures appear in Hello! magazine,

There are thought to be around 1600 of the endangered animals left in the world. Fingers crossed for next year then.