Edinburgh Zoo may have to return their giant pandas to China

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Giant panda

Edinburgh Zoo may have to return their giant pandas to China due to financial limitations brought about by the coronavirus pandemic. Currently Edinburgh Zoo is leasing, under a 10 year deal with the Chinese government, a pair of giant pandas which costs about £1 million a year. The Edinburgh Zoo is run by the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland who also run the Highland Wildlife Park.

Giant panda

Giant panda. Image by 995645 from Pixabay

Like many other entertainment establishments they were closed for three months during the summer which caused a £2 million financial loss to them last year. Looking forward, it appears that there will be further restrictions because of the continuance of the spread of the Covid-19 mutated virus.

The Royal Zoological Society of Scotland is a charity and management have said that they had done all they can to protect it by taking a government loan and putting the staff on furlough where possible. They’ve even made redundancies and launched a fundraising appeal.

The financial problems have been compounded by six failed attempts to produce a cub through artificial insemination of Tian Tian. Her mate, Yang Guang, was castrated in 2018 as a treatment for testicular cancer. They were moved to a Scottish government-funded £2.5 million enclosure last year.

The charity is not eligible for the government’s zoo fund designed to be given to smaller attractions. They are in discussion with their colleagues in China. They want to keep the pandas in Scotland as they are very popular.

Another compounding factor is that Scotland has left the European Union together with the remainder of the UK which precludes them from applying for grants from the European Union according to Mr Field who is the chief executive of the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland. At the moment they have a £900,000 shortfall in a number of projects including one to reintroduce Scottish wildcats into the country. This is a rearguard action because the Scottish wildcat is all but extinct in Scotland and therefore the whole of the UK.

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