AN historic agreement was signed today which will bring two giant pandas to Edinburgh Zoo, the first giant pandas to reside in the UK for 17 years.
Witnessed by Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, and Vice-Premier of China, Li Keqiang, the agreement was signed at Lancaster House in London by Donald Emslie, chair of the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS), which owns Edinburgh Zoo, and the Chinese Wildlife Conservation Association (CWCA).
Says a spokesperson: “The giant pandas, Tian Tian and Yangguang, a breeding pair born in 2003, will be under the custodianship of RZSS at Edinburgh Zoo, a world leader in animal conservation.
“The project represents the culmination of five years of political and diplomatic negotiation at the highest level and it is anticipated the giant pandas will arrive in their new home as soon as a date is agreed.”
Speaking about the agreement, chief executive officer of RZSS, David Windmill, said: “This is a landmark day for RZSS, Edinburgh Zoo, the UK and China.
“It represents the beginning of a programme of research, education and partnership and the project has huge benefit for the UK and Scotland, both in supporting giant panda conservation and in enhancing our programmes in education, science and conservation.”
His Excellency Mr Liu Xiaoming, Ambassador of China to the UK, said: “Pandas are a Chinese national treasure. This historical agreement is a gift to the people of the UK from China. It will represent an important symbol of our friendship and will bring our two people closer together.”
Speaking about the arrangements for the giant pandas, director of animals, conservation and education, Iain Valentine, comments: “This marks the start of a long relationship with CWCA in which we hope to bring the expertise that exists with RZSS and within the UK to the conservation efforts of the captive and wild populations of giant pandas.
“These wonderful animals will be housed in a specially refurbished enclosure which was formerly home to our gorillas.
“The enclosure will offer a good mix of comfort and visibility so the public can see the couple as they settle into their new home.
“We are looking forward to welcoming a delegation from the CWCA to Edinburgh later this week to view the Zoo and discuss our plans in detail.”
Welcoming the announcement, Culture and External Affairs Minister, Fiona Hyslop MSP, said: “Edinburgh Zoo has a world-leading reputation for animal conservation and I am delighted that Scotland has been chosen to take part in China’s breeding programme for giant pandas.
“The agreement gives Scotland an important role in securing the future of this endangered species. As well as supporting China’s work to protect these animals, the arrival of the pandas is expected to bring significant economic benefits for Scotland in terms of tourism, attracting hundreds of thousands of additional visitors to the zoo.
“Edinburgh Zoo has demonstrated that it has world-class expertise to breed and care for these rare animals and this announcement reflects our continuing work to strengthen the cultural, educational and economic links between Scotland and China.”
The RZSS worked in close partnership with the UK, Chinese and Scottish Governments, the CWCA and Wolong Panda Breeding Centre in Sichuan Province to facilitate this project and provide mutual support.
The Giant Panda Project will be funded through sponsorship, offering unparalleled opportunities in terms of international corporate, commercial and diplomatic relationships between China and the UK.
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Contact: Debbie Standen