Edinburgh Zoo prepares for panda-monium

by Pamela Paterson

Tian Tian, Edinburgh's future female panda.

Edinburgh Zoo is gearing up for the arrival of two Giant Pandas
that are being sent from China for a 10 year stay in Scotland.

Tian Tian and Yang Guang are currently in quarantine in China preparing for their 5000 mile journey to Scotland, where they will stay in a purpose-built enclosure in the zoo. It is hoped the pair will breed, helping to conserve the species which is in rapid decline. Pandas are notorious for their unwillingness to reproduce. Their future keeper Alison Maclean, who has just visited the pandas in China, believes that they will let her know if and when they are ready to take the plunge. She said, “Although they’ve both bred before, our two pandas haven’t met yet, so I’m looking forward to introducing them when the time is right.”

She added, “The conservational implications of this 10 year project are huge. It’s about working together globally to conserve this iconic species and contributing to the breeding programme.”

According to Ms Maclean, the Scottish climate is perfect for pandas, as they prefer cool, damp environments and do not like excessively hot weather. She said, “I’m particularly looking forward to seeing how they react to snow – they’re supposed to love it and are well used to it in the area of China they are from.”

The date has not yet been fixed for the panda’s arrival. The zoo is paying up to £600,000 a year for the privilege of keeping the pandas, not including the bill for the endless supply of bamboo needed to feed them. The zoo plans to grow a small amount of bamboo themselves (around 15%) and import the rest from a German supplier. Pandas eat up to 20, three-metre, bamboo stems every day.

The excitement is slowly building as the Scottish public awaits the special arrivals, whose enclosure includes bullet proof glass and a ‘love tunnel’. Ms Maclean, who has spent the past three weeks getting to know Tian Tian and Yang Guang, believes visitors will immediately fall in love with the pair. She says, “They’re actually enchanting – from how they sit down, to how they hold things, how they eat and how they take everything in around them. I think when people actually see them they will be mesmerised.”

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