On December 4th, 2011, two giant pandas arrived at Edinburgh Zoo after a 9 hour flight from China.
Tian Tian & Yang Guang are the first pandas to live in the UK for nearly 20 years and are expected to stay in Scotland for at least 10 years. Huge crowds gathered to meet the pandas on arrival in wintry conditions – which isn’t an issue for the pandas as they Chinese said they enjoy a roll around in the snow!
There is hope that the two pandas will breed panda cubs – both Tian Tian and Yang Guang’s parents were prolific breeders. Yang Guang’s father actually holds the record for breeding the most cubs at 107. But animal welfare campaigners have criticised Edinburgh Zoo saying that the deal is primarily commercial and it is not a credible way to go about saving the endangered species.
Whether or not this is the case, officials hope the pandas will help boost Scottish tourism. The Scottish government said the loan of the pandas symbolises a “growing friendship” between Scotland and China. The arrival of the pandas coincides with First Minister Alex Salmond’s visit to China to promote business and cultural links. Alex Salmond said he would thank the Chinese Vice Premier Li Keqiang in a meeting taking place in Beijing.
He said: “The great gift of these giant pandas symbolises the great and growing relationship between Scotland and China, which we will take further forward tomorrow when Vice Premier Li and I meet and discuss Scotland and China’s business, cultural and diplomatic links which are growing ever stronger to the benefit of both nations.”