Pandas a huge hit with Edinburgh Zoo crowds on first day


Scotland’s two bamboo munching celebrities Tian Tian and Yang Guang made a big hit with visitors at Edinburgh zoo on their first day. 

Despite freezing weather, crowds of panda lovers queued to see the furry black and white attractions in their special £250,000 enclosure.

The first 600 pre-booked visitors started viewing the giant pandas at Edinburgh Zoo in 30 minute time slots to see female Tian Tian and male Yang Guang as they went on public display for the first time.

This was a 200% rise on usual visitor numbers for a December Friday and pre-booked tickets for the first panda viewing weekend are up by 80% for a pre-Christmas winter weekend.

The pair arrived from China on December 4th but have been given some time to comfortably recover from their long journey before going on display to the public.  The £250,000 giant panda home at the zoo includes two separate enclosures with glass walls for the public to view the animals.

One lucky zoo visitor and giant panda enthusiast who had driven for five hours on Thursday night to see the new arrivals, was invited to cut the ribbon to officially open the enclosure to the public, he said:

“They are magnificent.  I love pandas and I always have.  I have a Twitter feed and blog about panda news from all around the world.”

Fans from all over Scotland as well as tourists from different countries waited in line to see the two newest Edinburgh zoo residents on loan to Scotland from China.

A couple from Tasmania, on holiday in Scotland said: “We happened to be visiting Edinburgh and heard about the pandas, so we thought we’d have a look.”

Other zoo visitors commented: “It’s a big thing for Scotland. It will bring so much tourism here.

“They’ve [children] been following all the news reports and have been really keen to see the pandas, so it’s been absolutely great.  I’ve loved pandas myself since I was a child, so it was amazing to see them in real life.  The enclosure looks fantastic. The panda looks quite at home there and not bothered about the visitors, which is lovely to see.”

Those waiting to see the pandas were entertained by a woman who played guitar to entertain the crowd, and another did the same by dressing as a panda.

One visitor was wearing a panda hair-band, panda bracelets, a panda necklace, a customized panda handbag containing two stuffed pandas, panda clad shoes, and even pink panda socks.

National and international press fought for pictures of the black and white bears: Tian Tian wandered about comfortably and merrily in her outdoor enclosure area looking for bamboo.  Yang Guang stayed indoors, chewing on bamboo, apparently very comfortable with the crowds looking at him through the enclosure window.

Tian Tian was much more physically mobile than her future partner, she paused at the window of Yang Guang’s enclosure, looked in at him then went on to her water pool.  

Tian Tian has produced cubs in the past, and Yang Guang has also fathered cubs – both with different mates – when Tian Tian comes into season the pair will be introduced to each other, possibly in February or March. 

Bringing the pandas to Edinburgh involved a five-year effort by the zoo and the Scottish Government – the pair will stay at the zoo for at least 10 years.