Pandas’ welcome party cost taxpayer £43,000
ALMOST £43,000 of taxpayers’ money was spent on the high-profile arrival celebrations for Edinburgh Zoo’s two giant pandas last month.
The Captive Animals’ Protection Society (Caps) revealed that ministers had spent £42,722 on the welcome party for the animals and associated marketing costs.
The charity, which campaigns against animal captivity in zoos, uncovered the cost using Freedom of Information legislation.
Caps said ministers had previously stated the government expected funding for the pandas to “come from commercial sponsorship and other revenue sources”.
The charity’s director Liz Tyson said: “We were pleased when we heard that taxpayers’ money would not be used to fund the new panda exhibit as we believe it is both unethical and, importantly, will not make any relevant contribution to the conservation of this incredible species.
“The monetary contribution from the Scottish Government was reported in the press to be ‘small’ but, in these times of austerity, it is difficult to see how the government can justify spending nearly £43,000 on a welcome party for the two animals.”
She added: “This, coupled with the fact that the deal has been regularly referred to as a ‘gift’ when it is, in fact, costing the zoo hundreds of thousands of pounds a year to lease the pandas just adds to the growing number of misleading statements being made on the deal which is, as the Scottish Government stated when the deal was first mooted, ‘primarily a commercial transaction’.”
The Scottish Government has insisted that Tian Tian and Yang Guang are expected to generate £2 million a year in revenue for Edinburgh Zoo.
A Scottish Government spokeswoman dismissed Ms Tyson’s comments as “nonsense”, adding that the contribution towards the cost of the arrival event was in recognition of the growing friendship between Scotland and China.
“The arrival event also resulted in unprecedented coverage of Edinburgh Zoo and supported the positive promotion of Edinburgh and Scotland worldwide,” she added.
The money spent by the Scottish Government includes a grant of £12,900 offered to the Royal Zoological Society Scotland towards the arrival event, £23,000 on marketing links between Scotland and China and staff costs of £6,822.
The government spokeswoman said: “The pandas are also a fantastic opportunity to deepen the business, cultural and diplomatic ties between our two countries. Tian Tian and Yang Guang are already a huge hit with visitors and it’s estimated they’ll generate an additional £2 million revenue per year for Edinburgh Zoo – benefiting Scottish tourism and the economy.
“We have also made it clear from the outset that the Scottish Government is not in a position to provide financial support for the ongoing costs associated with the pandas and we expect funding to come from commercial sponsorship and other revenue sources.”
Tian Tian, whose name means “sweetie”, and Yang Guang, meaning “sunlight”, travelled to Scotland last month on a chartered flight dubbed the FedEx “Panda Express”.
They were greeted by hundreds of wellwishers when they arrived at the zoo following their 5,000-mile non-stop flight from China.
The eight-year-old breeding pair will stay in the capital for the next ten years. It is hoped they will eventually produce cubs. More than 10,000 people have already booked tickets to see them.
Search for a job
Search for a car
Search for a house
Weather for Edinburgh
Wednesday 22 May 2013
Temperature: 3 C to 13 C
Wind Speed: 23 mph
Wind direction: West
Temperature: 5 C to 11 C
Wind Speed: 23 mph
Wind direction: North west