Pandas’ arrival step closer as Chinese set date for zoo visit

Two pandas are more likely to come to the UK after Chinese experts agreed the dates for a final inspection of their planned new home.

The Royal Zoological Society of Scotland has formally invited the Chinese Wildlife Conservation Association to visit Edinburgh Zoo this October to check the facilities being prepared for the two animals.

Breeding pair Tian Tian and Yang Guang are to be brought to the UK under a historic agreement with China.

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However the zoo must have the association’s approval before the Chinese government confirms when they can travel.

However, the animals still expected to arrive before the end of the year – as announced by Premier Wen Jiabao when he visited the UK in June.

A first delegation from Wolong Giant Panda Breeding Centre in China visited the zoo last month to see the preparations being made for the pandas.

Edinburgh Zoo chief executive Hugh Roberts said: “We had a very successful and productive series of meetings, sharing ideas and allowing the delegation to review our progress in advance of the Chinese Wildlife Conservation Association’s formal approval.

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“Over four days we looked at all aspects of the project, including the research and education strategies, veterinary skill sets, as well as our bamboo strategy.

“They were happy with our progress so far and, with their input, our facilities will be delivered to the highest-possible specification.

“We are confident that, following the October visit by the CWCA, we will receive the date for Tian Tian and Yang Guang’s arrival.”

Mr Roberts said the zoo has agreed to make some alterations to the enclosureswith future cubs in mind, which he described as “baby-proofing measures”.

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In light of the advice from the Chinese, the zoo altered the enclosures for health checks to create more space.

The zoo is still finalising its arrangements for feeding the pandas, which can munch there way through as much as 66lb (30kg) of bamboo every day.

Tian Tian and Yang Guang, born in 2003, will be the first giant pandas to live in the UK for 17 years.

The animals will live in Edinburgh for 10 years.