By William Walker
Two giant pandas, Tian Tian (‘sweetness’) and Yuan Guang (‘sunshine’), arrived at Edinburgh Zoo from China this month, following five years of planning and preparation.
The endangered species has not made its way to the UK in 17 years and the Scottish government expects a generous boost in tourism in what is considered a symbolic gesture of friendship between the two countries.
Deputy First Minister Nichola Sturgeon gushed “Scotland’s relationship with China is hugely important and the pandas represent a fantastic opportunity to deepen our business, cultural and diplomatic ties.”
The pair will remain at the Zoo for the next ten years and it is expected that attempts will be made to breed the pandas whilst there.
Animal rights groups have criticised the move, pointing out that breeding in captivity is notoriously difficult for Pandas, and the money that went into this venture would have been better spent elsewhere.
A spokesperson from PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) claimed that “if the zoo were serious about helping pandas, they would be asking the public to donate to schemes that protect pandas in their native habitats”.
‘Panda diplomacy’ has been an important part of Chinese foreign relations since as far back as the Tang Dynasty and so the gesture is nothing new. Whilst animal welfare groups attack the use of Pandas as a means to effect diplomacy there is no denying that this move will attract thousands of tourists to Scotland and provide a strong impetus into a stagnate economy.