The giant pandas have led to a surge in profits for the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, figures show.
In 2012 the society, which runs Edinburgh Zoo where pandas Yang Guang and Tian Tian live, recorded a 53% rise in profits - double what was predicted by the RZSS.
The latest financial report also shows that the operational surplus for last year was £1.5 million with an overall surplus of £2.4 million after investment and pension gains, which is in contrast to a £0.7 million deficit recorded for the previous year.
The increase has been attributed to a boost in the number of visitors to both of the society’s attractions, the Highland Wildlife Park and Edinburgh Zoo, strong retail and catering sales as well as a record number of animal births in 2012.
But the pandas’ contribution to the society’s good fortune is clear with visitor numbers rising at the zoo by 51%, while the Highland attraction had 25% more visitors.
Chris West, CEO of the RZSS, said: “Obviously [it’s] a huge leap for us, we must acknowledge giant pandas as being part of the reason, however they are an integral part of the collection and not a stand-alone attraction.
“Edinburgh Zoo would also have been poised to move into a positive financial position without giant pandas. I must also stress that giant pandas are a conservation programme for RZSS.
“Our primary goals are conservation, science and education related. RZSS combines the remit of a not-for-profit conservation charity, with the visitor attraction arms of Edinburgh Zoo and the Highland Wildlife Park.
“All of our surplus is invested back into the animals within our collection and into conservation work around the world. The financial benefits from the pandas enables us to support many other projects, not least the renaissance plans for the 100-year-old Edinburgh Zoo.”