Zoo in talks with firms over sponsorship of costly VIPs

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EDINBURGH Zoo is in talks with a number of companies over potential sponsorship for the giant pandas and could announce a deal early in the new year.

Royal Zoological Society for Scotland chief executive Hugh Robertson yesterday thanked delivery firm FedEx, which sponsored the pandas’ flight from China to Scotland – and joked that the zoo was open to any other offers.

“FedEx is our main sponsor at the moment and we are happy to accept any more sponsors at any time,” he said in a press conference yesterday.

But he admitted to The Scotsman that he was in discussion with a string of companies over potential deals.

“We are talking to several people about sponsorship,” he said. “We will give more details when they are ready to reveal the extent of their involvement.

“It has to make sense for any organisation in these economic times to make sure they deliver value for any deal – they need to ensure it is worth their while in terms of exposure.”

He added: “We may be able to announce something early in the new year.”

The cost of the pandas’ residence at the zoo – which includes a $1 million-a-year fee to the Chinese government, 90 per cent of which goes towards conservation projects in China, the £285,000 cost of adapting the enclosure for the pandas’ use and £70,000 a year on bamboo to feed the animals – is being met by the RZSS.

The organisation hopes the increased number of visitors to the zoo as a result of the pandas’ appearance will make up the majority of the cost.

At other zoos which acquired giant pandas, visitor numbers have rocketed by 70 per cent in the first year.

It was thought two years ago that the Royal Bank of Scotland had agreed to underwrite the deal, but it later emerged that no formal agreement had been put in place.

Mr Robertson insisted that the zoo was confident it would be able to generate sufficient funds to cover the costs.

“It is not critical in terms of the business plan,” he said.

“We have no government money or sponsorship; it will all come from income generated by the zoo.”