Edinburgh Zoo is to offer visitors a final chance to wave goodbye to its giant pandas before they are returned to China.
Tian Tian and Yang Guang’s loan at the capital’s facility will end in December having been extended by two years during the Covid pandemic.
The pair arrived in Scotland in 2011 but have failed to conceive as originally planned, despite Tian Tian being naturally mated once and artificially inseminated eight times.
Former mate Yang Guang had both testicles removed in November 2018 when tumours were discovered by keepers.
The date of their return to China has not been announced, but access will be restricted from November 30, bosses at the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS) have announced.
Chief executive David Field 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.
“That added interest in the pandas’ departure this year has allowed us to connect many more people with the conservation causes that RZSS is actively involved with, and with nature more generally.
“Through scientific research by our expert veterinary and keeper teams, working alongside the University of Edinburgh, we have made a significant contribution to our understanding around giant panda fertility, husbandry, and veterinary care – which has been of real benefit to efforts to protect this amazing species in China.”
He added: “It is encouraging that in recent years the outlook for giant pandas in the wild has improved, which gives real hope for the future.”
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