European Expertise & Home-Grown Talent for Panda's Bamboo
Edinburgh Zoo Combines European Expertise with Home-Grown Talent To Provide Bamboo for Giant
Pandas’ Menu includes up to 18,000 kgs of bamboo per year
with 25 different varieties
One of Europe’s leading horticulture specialists has been confirmed as the main supplier of
bamboo for the two giant pandas shortly to arrive at Edinburgh Zoo.
German grower Reiner Winkendick is set to provide 85% of the animals’ bamboo requirement for
the initial phase of the ten-year period that pandas Tian Tian and Yang Guang will reside at the
zoo. The supply will be grown in bamboo plantations at a nursery on the outskirts of
The other 15% will be grown at special sites around the zoo itself, allowing members of public
to see for themselves the delicate process involved in cultivating a plant that contributes almost
exclusively to the giant pandas’ diet. After the first three years of the project, the zoo’s
home grown supply will be gradually increased.
Between them, Tian Tian and Yang Guang, are expected to chomp their way through nearly 18,000
kg of bamboo every year, or around 20 three-metre stems each day. And, over the course of a year,
the giant pandas will be tempted with at least 25 different species of the plant, to encourage a
variety in their diet which replicates their natural environment in the mountain ranges of central
The pandas’ rather exacting dietary requirements have presented a horticultural challenge for
gardening experts at the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS).
Simon Jones, Gardens Manager, explains: “Our bamboo strategy is the result of more than
three-years of research, planning and exhaustive negotiations with suppliers across the UK and
“Our starting point was to ensure a long-term supply of fresh bamboo that was both sustainable
and cost-effective. Because bamboo forms such a fundamental part of the giant pandas’ diet, we
also had to guarantee consistency of supply, and to ensure that the bamboo was of the highest
possible quality while offering the variety of species required for their highly specialised
“Our German supplier grows exclusively for zoos across Europe and has a proven track-record in
the large-scale provision of specialist animal feed – including for giant pandas currently in
captivity in Berlin and Vienna.
“But we also wanted to procure a supply nearer to home, which is why we have five growing
sites spread across the zoo’s grounds. At any one time, our home-grown supply can
provide up to three weeks bamboo, enough to cover any emergency situation. Our on-site
nurseries will also form an essential part of the public’s understanding and engagement with the
To further guarantee consistency of supply, the RZSS’s Gardens Team has established a network
of home-grown suppliers as a contingency against any interruption of bamboo provision caused by any
unforeseen events or logistical supply challenges.
This informal group covers a range of private UK growers all of whom have keen interest in
cultivating bamboo for leisure and commercial purposes. This ranges from the Earl of Glasgow’s
Kelburn Castle Estate in Largs and Cornish estates famous for being the home of the UK’s bamboo
furniture industry, to private householders from Ratho and Helensburgh.
In total, the Zoo’s bamboo provision will cost around £70,000 per year to provide enough to
feed both giant pandas. The imported bamboo, which is organic and grown without the use of
pesticides, will arrive from the Dutch nursery every two weeks, and kept in specially created
storage facility to ensure maximum freshness an important quality for the giant pandas’ dietary
The pandas will be fed five different species of the plant each day, including both the leaves
and stem, and their menu will change depending on the time of year, reflecting natural behaviour in
the wild. In the spring, for example, the pandas will feast on the young, juicy shoots of just
Simon Jones added: “Since it was announced earlier this year that the pandas were coming to
Scotland, we have been overwhelmed by the amount of interest and offers we have received from
members of the public wanting to grow and supply bamboo for us.
“Unfortunately we can’t accept all the offers, but plan to develop education-based projects
with all those who have shown interest – including many primary schools in the area – to involve
them in the ongoing challenge of feeding our newest arrivals.”
Breeding panda pair Tian Tian (meaning ‘sweetie’) and Yang Guang (‘sunlight’) are set to
arrive in Edinburgh Zoo from the Ya’an reserve in Chengdu, China. The Giant Panda Project is funded
entirely from charitable donations from the RZSS and through sponsorship, offering unparalleled
opportunities in terms of international corporate, commercial and diplomatic relationships between
China and the UK.
Bamboozled! 10 Fascinating Facts About the Panda’s
1. Bamboo is a grass, belonging to the taxonomic family Gramineae (grasses),
sub-family Bambusoideae (bamboo). In total there are around 1,450 species of the plant which
grows on all of the world’s continents apart from Antarctica.
2. It is the fastest growing grass on the planet and has been recorded
growing at an amazing 47.6 inches in a 24-hour period. Some of the world’s
largest bamboo can grow more than 30 metres (98ft) tall and be as large as 6-8 inches in
3. Bamboo is a crucial element in the balance of oxygen and carbon dioxide
in the atmosphere. A typical grove of bamboo releases 35% more oxygen than an equivalent stand
of trees. Because of this, bamboo is a great way of reducing carbon footprints and helping
fight global warming.
4. Bamboo can tolerate extreme conditions with some species being found 4000
metres above sea level in the Andes and Himalayas. It was the first plant to re-green after the
atomic blast in Hiroshima, Japan in 1945.
5. While bamboo is an easy plant to grow with little history of disease, it
has a volatile life-cycle. Unlike other grasses, once it progresses to full-flowering, a
rather unpredictable process, the entire plant dies.
6. While giant pandas will eat up to 25 different type of bamboo, forming
99% of their diet, they are also carnivores who have an appetite for rats, mice, pikas (rabbit-like
creatures), insects and other vegetation.
7. Other animals that eat bamboo include the red panda of Nepal and bamboo
lemurs of Madagascar, as well as mountain gorillas of Central Africa. Chimps and elephants
also eat the stalks and have been documented consuming bamboo sap which was fermented and
8. Cornwall has been traditionally home to the UK’s bamboo furniture making
industry, and many landowners and private gardeners continue to grow bamboo in abundance. Many
are members of the thriving Bamboo Society of Great Britain – see link for more information
9. Bamboo has a wide variety of construction uses, especially in South Asia
and the South Pacific. In China, bamboo was used to hold up simple suspension bridges - one
such bridge in the Qian-Xian region is referenced in writings dating back to 960 AD and may have
stood since as far back as the third century BC.
10.Bamboo fibre has been used to make paper in China since early times. A high quality
hand-made paper is still produced in small quantities. Coarse bamboo paper is still used to
make spirit money in many Chinese communities.
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