Tian Tian (Sweetie) and Yang Guang (Sunshine), Edinburgh Zoo’s latest guests, are “settling in well” and “very happy” according to our well informed and friendly guide during my Christmas visit to the zoo’s new £250,000 panda enclosure.
The giant pandas arrived from China on the 4th December but the public weren’t able to see them until the 16th as the eight year olds needed some time to recuperate after their long flight.
Already, thousands have flocked to see the pair although not everyone seems to be a fan; from jealous Penguins in the neighbouring enclosure pooping on the queueing public, to Tian Tian causing some controversy with her addition to the ‘Women’ category of the BBC’s Faces of the Year.
Tian Tian and Yang Guang – both parents already, though not together – live separately for the time being, just as they would in the wild. They are able to see each other through the windows of their indoor enclosures or, should they wish, from the highest branches of their outdoor enclosures.
The separate areas are joined by what keepers have nicknamed “the love tunnel.” They believe Tian Tian could be in heat perhaps as early as February and in case any romance turns sour will be on hand with fire extinguishers; but the pandas have had a sniff of each other already and no agression has been reported – in fact, Yang Guang is already calling out for Tian Tian.Tian Tian and Yang Guang – both parents already, though not together – live separately for the time being, just as they would in the wild. They are able to see each other through the windows of their indoor enclosures or, should they wish, from the highest branches of their outdoor enclosures.
The pair are the only Giant Pandas in the UK and the first in 17 years; interestingly, the fantastic National Museum of Scotland – also in Edinburgh – is home to Ching Ching who in 1974, along with her partner Chia Chia, was a gift from China to London Zoo. The new pair will cost £640,000 each year for their ten year stay, however their predecessors were an example of Panda Diplomacy, an extremely successful cold war practice that saw nine countries receive 23 Giant Pandas from China between 1958 and 1982.
That’s not to say that this new arrangement is without its critics and naysayers: some believe the costs outweigh the benefits or that the hefty price tag would be better spent on conservation. Others, such as Free Tibet, argue that the Pandas, as “gorgeous as they are” are but a “charm offensive” and a smokescreen for an unelected regime with an “abysmal human rights record.”
Watch Edinburgh Zoo’s Giant Panda Cam