Pandas to arrive in a week

THE long-awaited pair of Chinese pandas will arrive at Edinburgh Zoo a week today, Scotland on Sunday can reveal.

Tian Tian and Yang Guang – Sweet and Sunshine – will be delivered to the zoo two days after First Minister Alex Salmond flies to China on a trip aimed at strengthening the links between the two countries. It is now believed that the pair will be a major Christmas draw.

The giant pandas were given to the UK as a “gift from China” during a visit from the Chinese vice premier Li Keqiang earlier this year. They have become an important symbol of Scotland’s relationship with the superpower.

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Originally it had been hoped that the pair, who will become the first such animals to live in Britain for 17 years and the first to live in captivity in Scotland, would be in their new home in time for the Duke of Edinburgh’s visit to the zoo in August this year.

However, a series of delays led to the postponement of their arrival date. A Chinese delegation, sent to inspect the zoo’s £250,000 panda enclosure, said that improvements were needed before it would be suitable for its new occupants.

The exact date of their arrival has been kept a closely-guarded secret, but Scotland on Sunday has learned that they are due to arrive on 4 December, a week today.

Nobody yesterday would confirm the date on the record.

It is understood the pandas will need time to settle into their new home before they go on display to the public. Their safe arrival at the weekend would mean that there is a good chance that visitors to the zoo will be able to see them before Christmas.

The pandas have already featured in UK-wide campaigns to promote Edinburgh’s festive attractions. However, plans to use them in the city’s first television advertising campaign were put on hold while it was unclear when visitors will be able to see them.

Tian Tian and Yang Guang are being delivered to Edinburgh Zoo from the Bifengxia Panda Base, near the city of Ya’an, China.