Edinburgh Zoo bans high-visibility vests in case they put giant pandas off sex

Staff told to stop wearing fluorescent clothing 'in order not to upset the animals'

Chris Baynes
Sunday 16 September 2018 20:46 BST
Tian Tian has not yet become pregnant despite a five-year breeding programme
Tian Tian has not yet become pregnant despite a five-year breeding programme

After five years of disappointment in Edinburgh Zoo’s giant panda breeding programme, efforts are underway to make the rare bears’ home a little more romantic.

Staff and contractors have been told not to wear high-visibility clothing over reported concerns that garish garments may deter Tian Tian and Yang Guang from mating.

The two pandas have been on loan from China since 2011 but have yet to produce any cubs since arriving in Scotland.

Earlier this year the zoo announced it had halted the breeding programme so it could “further assess the incredibly complex and unpredictable” process.

Enhancements are also being made to the enclosure which houses the pandas, which will return to China in three years.

As part of efforts to put the zoo’s animals at ease, a contractor which provides cleaning, security and waste disposal services on the 82-acre site has told its employees to ditch their brightly coloured vests.

Interserve, which has worked for the zoo since 2013, said staff would avoid “wearing high-visibility clothing in certain areas in order not to upset the animals”.

Tian Tian and Yang Guang, the UK’s only giant pandas, and two Asiatic lions are among the animals said to be put off by the fluorescent clothing.

Interserve's staff have also been asked to swap leaf-blowers for brooms to ensure noise does not interfere with lions’ and koalas’ mating seasons, according to construction industry magazine Building.

The changes were agreed as part of the company’s five-year, £2m contract renewal with the zoo.

The Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS), which runs the zoo, did not respond to a request for further information. But a spokesman told The Sunday Times: “Animals can be sensitive to noise, vibrations and anything visual which may be out of the ordinary, such as high-visibility clothing. Our staff and contractors follow procedures to ensure the impact of on-site activities is minimal."

Earlier this year the zoo, which attracts more than 600,000 visitors a year, objected to plans to redevelop a nearby former hospital into flats over concerns the construction could disturb the pandas.

Tian Tian and Yang Guang took up residence in Scotland as part of a £2.6bn trade deal between the UK and China.

Female Tian Tian had given birth to twins in China in 2009 but has not become pregnant since moving to Edinburgh. The RZSS has tried artificially inseminating her with Yang Guang's semen, as well as semen from another panda at Berlin Zoo, but has so far had no success.

Jeff Flanagan, Interserve’s commercial director, said: “Edinburgh Zoo holds a special place in many people's hearts… it’s a challenging but exciting place to work and our teams work in close partnership with the zoo to meet customers’ high expectations while respecting the needs of its animal residents.”

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