But now Edinburgh Zoo’s male giant panda Yang Guang has won the coveted “Panda Personality of the Year” award at the Giant Panda Global Awards.
The bear - the only male panda in the UK - received the top gold award, beating off competition from pandas in zoos across the world. A panda cub called Sai Hin from Adventure World in Japan won silver in the Panda Personality category, while Yi Yi from Zoo Negara in Malaysia scooped bronze.
The zoo’s panda Keeping Team was also given a silver award at the event, at the Pairi Daiz zoo, in Belgium.
Jo Elliott, animal collection manager at Edinburgh Zoo said, “We’re thrilled that Yang Guang won Panda Personality of the Year at the 2019 Giant Panda Global Awards. He is a firm favourite with our staff and visitors and a fantastic ambassador for his species, helping to raise awareness of the threats facing wildlife across the world.
“Our expert panda team also received a silver award for Panda Keepers of the Year which is a fantastic achievement and testament to their enthusiasm and dedication. Each year the Giant Panda Global Awards showcase the important panda conservation work taking place in China and abroad, and we’re honoured to have been a participant once again.”
The Royal Zoological Society of Scotland tweeted: “We always knew Yang Guang was a winner!”
Yang Guang arrived in Scotland in 2011, as part of a panda pair on loan to Britain from China. All giant pandas are only loaned to overseas zoos from the Chinese government.
The awards, now in their seventh year, are run by website, www.GiantPandaGlobal.com, run by panda enthusiast Jeroen Jacobs, to promote the important panda conservation work. The public poll generated 328,445 votes from across the world in 15 categories.The Belgian zoo which hosted the event has three giant pandas, including a cub, born in 2016. Zoo officials have tried unsuccessfully to breed Yang Guang and female panda Tian Tian in Edinburgh for the past seven years. Yang Guang had both testicles removed in November 2018 after tumours were discovered by keepers and Tian Tian has since been artificially inseminated with another panda’s sperm.
Mr Jacobs said: "I would like to congratulate all winners and thank all voters who have supported the Giant Panda Global Awards, an event created to promote panda conservation, education and research activities."
Both Yang Guang and Tian Tian have recently moved to a new home at the zoo, amid plans to redevelop the former Corstorphine Hospital next to the site. The move will mean there is no disturbance to the pandas from noise or vibrations from the building work.
There are only 1,864 giant pandas left in the wild. The captive population was counted at just 600 individual pandas in 2019.