Although their deal with China is due to conclude in December this year, the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS) said they “very much” hope to keep the giant panda duo.
It was initially hoped that pandas Tian Tian and Yang Guang would breed and produce cubs in Scotland, however, this is yet to happen.
Delivered to Edinburgh in 2011, the bears – which cost around £1 million to lease per year— were to be returned to China this year.
However, email exchanges between the RZSS and the Scottish Government – initially reported by the Times – reveal that the zoo is seeking an extension by June.
An email from the RZSS’s director of engagement from January 2021 said that returning the pandas to China by the end of 2021 was a “concern”.
The email read: “You mentioned that the cabinet secretary may be able to raise this with counterparts in the UK government, which would be very helpful.
“Our exit surveys have consistently shown the pandas to be the favourite animal among our visitors.”
In April, Tian Tian was artificially inseminated for the eighth time using semen from China after failing to breed naturally with Yang Guang.
Over a week ago, it was reported that Tian Tian, who gave birth once before in China in 2007, could be pregnant after she was artificially inseminated under expert veterinary care.
Zoo officials said that the 80kg bear “is in good health” following the procedure, but warned that “it is too early to know if she is pregnant”.