Edinburgh Zoo's giant pandas to return to China in December

Tian Tian was artificially inseminated in April
Tian Tian is one half of the popular panda pair

Edinburgh Zoo's giant pandas will finally return to China in December, it has been announced.

Tian Tian and Yang Guang have to go back under the terms of a 10-year loan, which was extended by two years due to the Covid pandemic.

The pair have failed to produce offspring since their arrival in 2011.

The Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS), which runs Edinburgh Zoo, said the giant pandas have had an "incredible impact" on visitors.

The zoo has been paying £750,000 annually to China for the pandas.

The exact date of their departure is being finalised.

'Real benefit'

Alison Maclean, the carnivore team leader at Edinburgh Zoo, said: "We are making arrangements with our partners in China for Yang Guang and Tian Tian to return in early December, possibly during the first week.

"Visitors to the zoo can expect to see them indoors and outside until the end of November, after which viewing will be outdoors only until they leave."

She added: "Having cared for Yang Guang and Tian Tian since they arrived in 2011, I will be travelling back to China with them, to help them settle into their new homes."

David Field, the RZSS chief executive, said: "With more than a million species at risk of extinction and our natural world in crisis, Yang Guang and Tian Tian have had an incredible impact by inspiring millions of people to care about nature.

"Through scientific research alongside the University of Edinburgh, we have also made a significant contribution to our understanding of giant pandas, which will be of real benefit to efforts to protect this amazing species in China.

"It is encouraging that in recent years the outlook for giant pandas in the wild has improved, which gives real hope for the future."

The zoo and veterinarians from China made eight unsuccessful attempts at artificial insemination between the pair. The last attempt was in 2021, after which the giant panda breeding programme was stopped.