The Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS) has announced plans to give giant pandas Yang Guang and Tian Tian a ‘giant farewell’ from Edinburgh Zoo as the wildlife conservation charity prepares for the pair’s return to China later this year.
A new series of events and experiences will be available to book from Monday 9 January, including exclusive ‘Panda Magic Moments’ which will only be available to RZSS members and giant panda adopters.
Yang Guang and Tian Tian arrived in Edinburgh in December 2011 as part of a 10-year arrangement between RZSS and the China Wildlife Conservation Association, which was extended by two years due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The giant pandas could leave the capital as early as the end of October 2023 with travel details to be confirmed closer to the time.
David Field, RZSS chief executive, said, “We were thrilled to extend Yang Guang and Tian Tian’s stay at Edinburgh Zoo, especially as the pandemic made it much harder for people to visit and would have prevented our giant panda keepers from travelling to China to help the pair settle into their new homes.
“As the UK’s only giant pandas, they have been incredibly popular with visitors which has helped to connect millions of people to nature as well as raising vital funds for wildlife conservation.
“Through a new range of events and experiences, we will be providing as many opportunities as possible for people to say goodbye and to celebrate the tremendous impact these two charismatic bears have had on our communities, helping to create a world where nature is protected, valued and loved.
“Panda magic moments will be popular, with our members, patrons and giant panda adopters having the opportunity to meet and feed Yang Guang. Other experiences available to everyone will include panda talks and brunch events.
“The funds raised will help us to save wildlife from extinction, including species in Scotland such as the wildcat and pine hoverfly, chimpanzees in Uganda and giant armadillos in Brazil.”
RZSS has pledged to reverse the decline of at least 50 species by 2030 and the charity intends to convert the zoo’s giant panda habitat to welcome a new animal in the future.
“We are facing a biodiversity crisis and it is vital that we expand our work to protect more endangered animals around the world,” Field said.
“By collaborating with partners in China and welcoming Yang Guang and Tian Tian to Scotland, we have had many successes for over the past 11 years in terms of technique exchanges, scientific research and public engagement.
“We are also very proud of the contribution we have made to giant panda breeding research alongside our partners at the University of Edinburgh and our findings have been of real benefit to international efforts to protect the species.
“After the pandas leave, we will decide on a new species with a crucial factor being how we can support conservation in the wild.”
More information about the new giant panda events and experiences at Edinburgh Zoo is available at edinburghzoo.org.uk/pandas