Pandas raise zoo visitor numbers
Wednesday 01 February 2012
Visitor numbers at Edinburgh Zoo are up 200% thanks to the recent arrival of giant pandas.
Around 70,000 people have seen Tian Tian and Yang Guang since they went on public display in December, more than three times the number who visited the zoo in the same period of 2010.
Around 1,000 cuddly panda toys, some costing as much as £40, have been bought from the zoo shop each week since the animals went on display.
Edinburgh Zoo chief executive Hugh Roberts said: "We've been fully booked almost every day so far and expect the popularity of Tian Tian and Yang Guang to continue. Visitors' faces have been amazing, both young and old. For the vast majority of people this is the first chance they've had in their lifetime to cast their eyes on a giant panda."
Visitors are not charged extra to enter the panda enclosure but time slots need to be reserved due to the high demand.
Around 200 spaces are available for each half-hourly interval and this scheme has been extended to March to ensure as many people as possible can see the bears each day.
Mr Roberts added: "As well as being incredibly endangered and rarely seen outside China, they are an extremely cute and anthropomorphic animal.
"People are often amazed to see for themselves that pandas are quite happy to make eye contact and our visitors can learn lots of interesting facts from our panda patrols, like pandas eat a third of their bodyweight in food every day and the male pandas do their own version of a handstand to scent mark their territory.
"It's all very exciting stuff and the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland is honoured to be able to bring and share giant pandas with the people of Scotland, the UK and beyond."
Tian Tian and Yang Guang went back on public display on Monday after being ill. The male, Yang Guang, was removed from public viewing in early January because he had colic, and Tian Tian, the female, was taken off show on Saturday with the same condition.
The pandas arrived in Edinburgh from Ya'an reserve in Chengdu, China on December 4. They went on show to zoo visitors for the first time on December 16 once they had acclimatised to their new surroundings.
Yang Guang started feeling ill less than a month after the pair went on display.
Colic is a common condition which, in humans, affects around one in five babies. Its cause is unknown. The most common symptom of colic is excessive crying in a baby which otherwise appears healthy and well fed.
Edinburgh Zoo will be the animals' home for the next 10 years and it is hoped the breeding pair - the first pandas in the UK for 17 years - will produce cubs during their stay.
Iain Valentine, director of research and conservation at Edinburgh Zoo, said: "It would be incorrect to speculate that their recent bout of being under the weather would affect our pandas' chance of producing a cub. Also, the panda breeding season is dictated by light levels so, without getting too technical, we do not expect the breeding season to start here until daylight lengths start to increase around the mid-March to April time."
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