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The National (Scotland)
The National (Scotland)
Ninian Wilson

'Iconic' Edinburgh Zoo pandas set to return to China

TWO pandas who “just don’t get on” will return to China after they failed to reproduce while at Edinburgh Zoo, a “hugely" disappointed zoo boss has said.

Female panda Tian Tian and male Yang Guang were thought to be a perfect match when they arrived in Scotland in 2011, according to David Field, the chief executive of the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS).

Unfortunately, the pair’s stay in Edinburgh did not prove fruitful, with Field joking that “perhaps Tian Tian wouldn’t have swiped right” if she came across Yang Guan on Tinder, The Telegraph has reported.

Both now 19, they will be taken back to China following a number of attempts at natural breeding and artificial insemination.

Also known by the name Sweetie, Tian Tian gave birth to twins before arriving in Scotland but since then efforts to have cubs have been unsuccessful.

Meanwhile, Yang Guang, who also goes by the moniker Sunshine, was diagnosed with testicular cancer in 2018 and went on to be castrated.

Field said: “It’s hugely disappointing. Baby pandas are just beautiful. They are exquisite, they are endearing, they are glorious, they are one of the most fantastic ambassadors for people falling back in love with nature.

“But I think the biggest disappointment has been for Tian Tian, because that maternal cycle is really important for them as part of their natural behavioural repertoire - everything from all the hormonal cycles to the nest building to rearing.”

He went on to say that Tian Tian and Yang Guang were “two very content and very happy pandas”.

However, Field offered the caveat that “sometimes animals just don’t get on”.

He continued: “Genetically they were apparently an extremely good match but behaviourally, if it was Tinder, perhaps Tian Tian wouldn’t have swiped right if she had the choice.”

While the bid to produce cubs has not worked out, Field says the RZSS could be proud of their contribution to giant panda breeding research.

He added: “They are hugely emblematic, they are iconic for conservation and they make people smile with sheer abandonment.”

The RZSS revealed in December 2021 that there would be a two-year extension to the panda’s stay in Edinburgh that would keep them in Scotland until the end of 2023 but officials recently revealed that the pair may return to China as early as October.

Tian Tian and Yang Guang are set to be replaced by another “exciting” species that will be revealed in due course.

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