Edinburgh Zoo has unveiled the last chance for visitors to catch a glimpse of its beloved giant pandas, Tian Tian and Yang Guang, before they embark on their journey back to China.
The departure is scheduled for December, marking the conclusion of a 10-year loan, extended by an additional two years due to the disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
While the precise date of the pandas’ return remains undisclosed, the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS), the organisation overseeing the zoo, has revealed that access to the pandas will be restricted starting Thursday, November 30.
The dynamic duo, who made their Scottish debut in 2011, came with a hefty annual price tag of £750,000 paid to China.
Despite the significant investment, the pandas, unfortunately, failed to expand their family during their time in Edinburgh.
The collaborative efforts between the zoo and Chinese veterinarians included eight unsuccessful attempts at artificial insemination between Tian Tian and Yang Guang. The final attempt took place in 2021, leading to the cessation of the giant panda breeding program.
David Field, Chief Executive of RZSS, expressed gratitude for the positive impact the pandas had on raising awareness about nature conservation. He emphasised the crucial role the pandas played in connecting millions of people to the conservation causes actively supported by RZSS.
“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,” said Field.
The heightened interest in the pandas’ departure this year allowed the zoo to engage a broader audience in conservation efforts and nature appreciation.
Field highlighted the scientific contributions made by the zoo’s expert veterinary and keeper teams, working in collaboration with the University of Edinburgh, in advancing the understanding of giant panda fertility, husbandry, and veterinary care.
“As we bid farewell to Yang Guang and Tian Tian, we take pride in the significant contribution made to the global 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, providing real hope for the future,” concluded Field.