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Edinburgh Zoo’s giant pandas to return to China after 12 years

The pandas arrived in Edinburgh in 2011 (PA) (PA Archive)
The pandas arrived in Edinburgh in 2011 (PA) (PA Archive)

Edinburgh Zoo’s giant pandas will return to China later this year after special farewell events in their Scottish home.

Yang Guang and Tian Tian arrived in December 2011 under a 10-year agreement which was extended for two years due to the pandemic.

The two bears could leave as early as October, with details due to be confirmed later.

The zoo says new experiences and events will be available to book for members of the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS) from this week.

David Field, RZSS chief executive, said: “We were thrilled to extend Yang Guang and Tian Tian’s stay at Edinburgh Zoo, especially as the pandemic made it much harder for people to visit and would have prevented our giant panda keepers from travelling to China to help the pair settle into their new homes.

“As the UK’s only giant pandas, they have been incredibly popular with visitors, which has helped to connect millions of people to nature as well as raising vital funds for wildlife conservation.

“Through a new range of events and experiences, we will be providing as many opportunities as possible for people to say goodbye and to celebrate the tremendous impact these two charismatic bears have had on our communities, helping to create a world where nature is protected, valued and loved.

Panda magic moments will be popular, with our members, patrons and giant panda adopters having the opportunity to meet and feed Yang Guang.

“Other experiences available to everyone will include panda talks and brunch events.

“The funds raised will help us to save wildlife from extinction, including species in Scotland such as the wildcat and pine hoverfly, chimpanzees in Uganda and giant armadillos in Brazil.”

Despite efforts to breed the two pandas, female Tian Tian has not produced a cub during her time in Edinburgh.

She was believed to be pregnant in August 2017 but her hormone levels and behaviour later returned to normal.

Mr Field added: “By collaborating with partners in China and welcoming Yang Guang and Tian Tian to Scotland, we have had many successes for over the past 11 years in terms of technique exchanges, scientific research and public engagement.

“We are also very proud of the contribution we have made to giant panda breeding research alongside our partners at the University of Edinburgh and our findings have been of real benefit to international efforts to protect the species.

“After the pandas leave, we will decide on a new species, with a crucial factor being how we can support conservation in the wild.”