Visitors to a Scottish zoo can soon look forward to some Yuletide cheer, courtesy of Mother Nature. And China.
Having arrived last week via the Panda Express, Yang Guang and Tian Tian are shaking off the jetlag and settling into life at Edinburgh Zoo.
They’ve had a few changes to get used to. As well as chilly surroundings, the pair of giant pandas will need to familiarize themselves with the accents of their Scottish zookeepers, which no doubt differ slightly from that of their carers back in Sichuan Province.
(PHOTOS: Giant Panda People)
But although male Yang Guang has hit the ground running, already becoming acquainted with the new keepers and enclosure, his lady friend Tian Tian has kept appearances to the bare necessity and spends most of her waking hours resting out of sight.
The pair was unveiled to the media on Monday, and paying visitors will be allowed to see the giant pandas for the first time on Friday.
And having come with a hefty price tag, the Edinburgh Zoo is hoping Yang Guang and Tian Tian will prove a big draw for crowds. The zoo is paying China the equivalent of $1 million a year for the decade-long loan and will have to return the pair, as well as any cubs they produce, at the end of this period.
But the zoo’s chief executive, Hugh Roberts, believes the bamboo-loving bears will cover their costs in gate fees alone, predicting visitor numbers to swell by as much as 70% in the first year. And even if they don’t, Edinburgh officials insist finance doesn’t come into the equation, as the bears are part of an international conservation effort.
So while the rest of Europe sweats over an economic apocalypse, it seems the monochrome mammals have been given carte blanche to put their paws up and chew some bamboo. Anyone know where NewsFeed can buy a panda costume?
PHOTOS: Bye-Bye, Panda Tai-Shan