Edinburgh Zoo Pandas – The two giant pandas begin the long journey from China to Scotland. Last-minute preparations are being made for their arrival and their new home. Tian Tian and Yang Guang will arrive at the Zoo Edinburgh at lunchtime on Sunday on a specially-chartered flight.
Officials hope their presence will boost tourism and the Scottish economy. Animal welfare campaigners have criticised the zoo for accepting the pandas, saying it is a “primarily commercial deal”. The eight-year-old pair, the first giant pandas to live in the UK for 17 years, will stay at the zoo for at least 10 years.
It is hoped they will eventually breed. They have left China on the Boeing 777F flight, the “FedEx Panda Express”.
Gerald P Leary, president of FedEx Express Europe, said: “The specially-chartered flight follows months of preparation and planning to ensure the pandas’ travel is safe and comfortable at every stage of their journey.”
A vet and two animal handlers from Edinburgh Zoo and the Bifengxia Panda Base are on board.
The arrival date – which coincides with Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond’s visit to China – had been kept under wraps until earlier this week.
Tian Tian, meaning “sweetness”, and Yang Guang, meaning “sunshine”, will have two weeks to settle in to their new enclosure before going on display to the public.
A plane has been specially chartered to bring the pandas to EdinburghTheir arrival will mark the culmination of a five-year effort to bring the giant pandas to Scotland.
Zoo chiefs have described it as a “historic occasion” for the visitor attraction and the UK as a whole.
A spokeswoman for VisitScotland said: “The pandas will be a fantastic asset to Edinburgh Zoo, providing people with even more compelling reasons to visit this fantastic attraction and indeed the city itself.
“The zoo is offering a unique opportunity to see these charming animals, helping to encourage increased visitor numbers to Edinburgh and Scotland.”
However, animal welfare campaigners have criticised the move, suggesting it is not a credible way to go about saving the giant panda.
A spokeswoman for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) said: “Edinburgh Zoo is putting the ‘con’ in conservation by trying to hoodwink the public into believing that the salvation of pandas lies in warehousing these sensitive animals.