Life

Giant pandas arrive in UK

It's Christmas come early at Edinburgh Zoo, as it became the new home of two giant pandas from China over the weekend.

Female panda Tian Tian (meaning "sweetie") and her male counterpart Yang Guang ("sunshine") arrived in Edinburgh on Sunday afternoon on a specially-chartered flight from the Chengdu province of China.

Zoo officials confirmed the bears were both "very well" but "jet-lagged" after the long journey with a vet and two animal handlers aboard the so-called "Panda Express" FedEx flight.

Gary Wilson, Edinburgh Zoo's director of business operations, said: "They are in a strange sequence of sleeping for two hours and eating for two hours, a bit like most humans when they fly half way around the world.

"They are very active within the internal area, they are walking around, they are doing a lot of eating of bamboo, scenting the area and getting familiarised, just like when you have a new home yourself."

Crowds gathered to see the duo arrive in Scotland yesterday, following a five-year negotiation over the move. The pandas were greeted with a red carpet reception, complete with bagpipes and a bamboo cake.

They are to spend the next few days acclimatising to their environment before going on display on Friday 16 December. A special "panda cam" is expected to be set up from their £250,000 enclosures - made from bullet-proof glass and situated next door to one another - in the next few days.

The pandas, who are both eight years old, have not been introduced to one another. Tian Tian has had cubs in the past and Yang Guang has also fathered cubs, so it is hoped the two will produce offspring when they meet next spring, as Tian Tian comes into season. They are set to stay at the zoo for 10 years.

"They are frolicking around in their new inside enclosure and it's so far, so good," a spokesman said.

Picture credit: Rex Features