China / Hot Issues

1st anniversary for Chinese giant pandas at Edinburgh Zoo

(Xinhua) Updated: 2012-12-05 03:57

EDINBURGH - Tasting panda cakes with mouth wide open, Chinese giant pandas Yang Guang and Tian Tian on Tuesday seemed to be enjoying their first anniversary of finding a new home at Edinburgh Zoo in Scotland.

"They are lovely. It's nice to see them. I really enjoyed the visiting experience," said the 60-year-old Anne Steeper, who came from York in northeast England with her husband to see the pandas.

Since Yang Guang and Tian Tian arrived one year ago as the first giant pandas in Britain for almost 20 years, Edinburgh Zoo has recorded a 50-percent increase in visits.

More than 800,000 visitors went to the zoo since early this year, compared with 525,000 over the whole of 2011, with over 500,000 of them attracted by the pandas. About 70,000 cuddly panda toys have been sold, according to statistics from the zoo.

Among the visitors are British Princess Anne, Hollywood actress Nicole Kidman and Chinese Ambassador to Britain Liu Xiaoming.

Yang Guang and Tian Tian have become famous stars in Edinburgh, with special city buses bearing huge photos of them, said Rachel Goddard, public relations manager of the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS).

At some bus stops, Xinhua reporters witnessed low-carbon life promotion advertisements with the image of a panda.

Tian Tian was named one of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC)'s Faces of the Year in 2011.

"This is good for us," said Goddard with a smiling face.

Although Yang Guang and Tian Tian failed to mate in April, Iain Valentine, Director of Animals, Conservation and Education of the RZSS, expressed expectation for new panda cubs next year with usually short breeding season in April and delivering period in August or September. Tian Tian previously gave birth to twin cubs in 2009.

"We at the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland have learnt an enormous amount about Tian Tian and Yang Guang, but also about giant pandas as an entire species. This knowledge is vital to the global conservation panda effort," he noted.

"Through our panda research, RZSS has been able to develop further understanding regarding the globally understood nutritional needs of giant pandas, something we will develop further over the coming years. Our future research will also focus on male panda breeding behavior, of which much less is known," he said.

From the end of December this year, lighting levels inside enclosures of both pandas will change according to natural light levels outside, which is vital as lighting levels dictate panda hormone levels, he told Xinhua.

Valentine hailed the pandas as a symbol of friendship between China and Britain.

Yang Guang and Tian Tian, both aged nine, are on loan from China for a period of 10 years, and will be returned to China after that. Any panda cubs born during that time will stay with the mother until the age of two before they are handed over to China.

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