City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

China Gifts Breeding Pair of Giant Pandas To Edinburgh Zoo

By edg - Posted on 10 January 2011

Ko'ko in the Kobe Oji Zoo, Kobe

China has given "a gift" of a breeding pair of giant pandas to Edinburgh Zoo. A historic agreement was signed today which will see the first giant pandas reside in the UK for 17 years. Witnessed by Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, and Vice Premier of China, Li Keqiang, the agreement was signed at Lancaster House in London by Donald Emslie, chairman of the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS), which owns Edinburgh Zoo, and the Chinese Wildlife Conservation Association (CWCA).

Chief executive officer of RZSS, David Windmill, called it “a landmark day".

"It represents the beginning of a programme of research, education and partnership and the project has huge benefit for the UK and Scotland, both in supporting giant panda conservation and in enhancing our programmes in education, science and conservation,” he said.

The RZSS worked in close partnership with the UK, Chinese and Scottish Governments, the CWCA and Wolong Panda Breeding Centre in Sichuan Province to facilitate the project and provide mutual support.

An estimated 1500 of the bamboo-eating, black-and-white bears survive in their native habitat in central-western and south western China. Due to farming and deforestation, they have been gradually driven out of their native habitat.

Speaking about the arrangements for the giant pandas, director of animals, conservation and education, Iain Valentine, said: “This marks the start of a long relationship with CWCA in which we hope to bring the expertise that exists with RZSS and within the UK to the conservation efforts of the captive and wild populations of giant pandas. These wonderful animals will be housed in a specially refurbished enclosure which was formerly home to our gorillas. The enclosure will offer a good mix of comfort and visibility so the public can see the couple as they settle into their new home. We are looking forward to welcoming a delegation from the CWCA to Edinburgh later this week to view the Zoo and discuss our plans in detail.”

The Giant Panda Project will be funded through sponsorship, offering unparalleled opportunities in terms of international corporate, commercial and diplomatic relationships between China and the UK.

Welcoming the announcement, Culture and External Affairs Minister Fiona Hyslop said: "The agreement gives Scotland an important role in securing the future of this endangered species. As well as supporting China’s work to protect these animals, the arrival of the pandas is expected to bring significant economic benefits for Scotland in terms of tourism, attracting hundreds of thousands of additional visitors to the zoo."