Edinburgh Zoo's giant pandas to return to China

Male Yang Guang and female Tian Tian have been residents at the facility since 2011.

After more than a decade in the capital, Edinburgh Zoo’s giant pandas will return to China in early December 2023.

Male Yang Guang and female Tian Tian have been residents at the facility since 2011, and conservation bosses have said that during their time in Edinburgh they have had an “incredible impact” by connecting millions of people with nature.

The two were brought to Edinburgh as part of a ten-year agreement between The Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS) and the China Wildlife Conservation Association, which was later extended by two years. The date of their departure is being finalised.

The UK’s only giant pandas had been brought to the UK as part of a breeding programme, however they failed to produce a cub 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.

Yang Guang and Tian Tian, Edinburgh Zoo's giant pandas will return home after more than ten years in the capital.Edinburgh Zoo

Alison Maclean, carnivore team leader at Edinburgh Zoo, said: “We are making arrangements with our partners in China for Yang Guang and Tian Tian to return in early December, possibly during the first week.

“Visitors to the zoo can expect to see them indoors and outside until the end of November, after which viewing will be outdoors only until they leave.

“Having cared for Yang Guang and Tian Tian since they arrived in 2011, I will be travelling back to China with them, to help them settle into their new homes.

David Field, RZSS chief executive, said: “With more than a million species at risk of extinction and our natural world in crisis, Yang Guang and Tian have had an incredible impact by inspiring millions of people to care about nature.

“Through scientific research alongside the University of Edinburgh, we have also made a significant contribution to our understanding of giant pandas, which will be of real benefit to 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, which gives real hope for the future.”

The giant panda habitat at Edinburgh Zoo will become home to a new species RZSS can support in the wild, which will be announced next year.

“Our vision is of a world where nature is protected, valued and loved, which is why we have made an important pledge to reverse the decline of at least 50 species by 2030,” said Mr Field continued.

“We have reached significant milestones recently with the release of wildcats, pine hoverflies and dark bordered beauty moths in the Scottish Highlands.

“With a fantastic home at Edinburgh Zoo, combined with our international expertise in conservation science and research, we have an opportunity to help protect a new species through public engagement here in Scotland and in the wild by working with global partners.”

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