City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

Pandas Mark One Year Anniversary in Edinburgh

By edg - Posted on 04 December 2012

Tian Tian eats cake

Edinburgh Zoo's pair of giant pandas, Tian Tian (Sweetie) and Yuang Guang (Sunshine), have lived up to their billing as star attractions a year after their arrival in the capital.

Since relocating here from China, the two have been seen by half a million visitors, boosted the RZSS membership by 20% and helped sell 70,000 cuddly giant pandas.

The two loveable creatures have been at the centre of a non-stop media circus: launching panda cams, a panda tartan fabric, "panda milk" with a local dairy, and fronting a campaign for a major deodorant brand.

They didn't have any success on the breeding front, something that the zoo suggests is not unusual given that the pandas had only been in their new home for three months before they came into season (see story).

“Looking back on this, our first giant panda year, it has been a great success," said Iain Valentine, Director of Research and Conservation, at Edinburgh Zoo.

"Although we are a world leader in the science and art of animal husbandry, we at the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS) have learnt an enormous amount about Tian Tian and Yang Guang, but also about giant pandas as an entire species. This knowledge is vital to the global conservation panda effort."

He added: “The conservation of the giant panda has also been aided and developed with our payment to China, being directly invested in restoring the Wolong panda base after the devastating earthquake four and a half years ago. On top of this, through our panda research, RZSS has been able to develop further understanding regarding the globally understood nutritional needs of giant pandas, something we will develop further over the coming years. Our future research will also focus on male panda breeding behaviour, of which much less is known.”

Darren McGarry, Head of Animals at Edinburgh Zoo, said it seemed "like only yesterday" that the zoo was preparing for the arrival of the pandas.

“Their first year at their new home has been wonderful in so many different ways and, as with any animal that you haven’t cared for before, we have learnt so much about them. They are entirely different characters and personalities, and we’ve been able to adapt and tailor how we care for them as they have settled in. We now know that they each have their own preferences for particular species of bamboo, that Yang Guang doesn’t like noise so much, and that Tian Tian has a preference for panda cake".

To mark the occasion Tian Tian feasted on an anniversary, panda cake in the shape of a number one.

Photo: Rob McDougall