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'Sparks' fly but love fails to catch fire.

HOPES of a baby panda being born in the UK this year are fading after the country's only bears failed to mate for a second day despite "natural sparks" flying between them.

The clock is ticking for Yang Guang and Tian Tian to mate within a limited window of fertility.

Keepers at Edinburgh Zoo opened a "love tunnel" between the bears' enclosures after tests showed female panda Tian Tian had ovulated.

They met five times on Tuesday, and "several times" again yesterday, but despite "natural sparks" flying between them, the pair failed to do the deed.

The pandas were to have a final chance to mate later last night but keepers were losing hope that Tian Tian would get pregnant this year.

They said the attempted couplings had been "immeasurable" for the bears because they were both sexually inexperienced.

Iain Valentine, director of research and conservation at the zoo, said: "We are hugely encouraged by how much the natural sparks flew between the two animals, as like humans, not all male and female pandas are attracted to each other. Both were keen to mate but their inexperience showed."

An Edinburgh Zoo spokeswoman last night said the pandas had met again twice and had come "closer than ever before" to mating, but again failed to do so.

CAPTION(S):

* Is that a headache? Edinburgh Zoo's female panda Tian Tian takes a rest from male Yang Guang's attentions through the 'tunnel of love' yesterday
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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Apr 5, 2012
Words:242
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