TWO giant pandas removed from public display at Edinburgh Zoo are suffering from a Scottish form of “Delhi Belly” as they adjust to eating bamboo grown outside their native China, according to a leading veterinary surgeon.
The UK’s only giant pandas, arrived in the capital last month, but Yang Guang, the male, became ill two weeks ago with a bad bout of colic.
Tian Tian, the female, was reported to be suffering from a less serious attack at the weekend.
The zoo said that Yang Guang is due to go back on view to the public today.
Mathew Brash, vice-president of the British Veterinary Zoological Society, last night said there was no great cause for concern and likened the pandas medical problems to a “travel tummy bug”.
He said: “It’s just like us going on holiday to India. We might get a tummy upset and feel a bit poorly.
“The pandas are just the same and are undergoing a little period of adjustment.
“But unlike some animals pandas are complicated eaters and very particular about what they eat and need a high-fibre diet.
“Whatever the bamboo they were eating in China will be different from the bamboo they are eating in Scotland. In other words, their gut floor is adjusting to living in Scotland.
“This is all purely related to the natural bacteria in the area, on the ground and in the soil.
“They are getting used to Scottish bugs, which are not bad bugs, just different bugs.”
Mr Brash added: “Settling in to a new environment depends on what sort of animal we are dealing with. Pandas are on the more delicate end of the scale and take longer to settle in. But the colic should disappear once they had settled in.”
A spokeswoman for Edinburgh Zoo said that Tian Tian had been poorly on Saturday and was being given time away from the public.
“One of our vets has been to visit her and suspects she has a bit of colic, similar to Yang Guang but much milder,” she said.
“Yang Guang is expected to go back on public view on Monday.
“We understand some visitors will be disappointed, however the welfare of our giant pandas has to be a priority.”
She added that visitors who had booked to see the pandas, the first in the UK for 17 years, had been fully refunded, would have their next visit free of charge and be invited to rebook for a suitable future date.
It is expected that the pair will eat up to 18,000 kilos of bamboo every year during their stay in the capital.
In November, The Scotsman reported that Edinburgh Zoo will pay around £70,000 every year to import some 85 per cent of that bamboo from a farm near Amsterdam in the Netherlands.
The firm also provides bamboo for pandas in Vienna and Berlin.
With worldwide interest in the eight-year-old breeding pair, who will remain in Edinburgh for ten years, the zoo has been issuing regular updates on their health.
Around two weeks ago, it was reported that Yang Guang had recovered from an earlier bout of colic and that his energy levels began to rise.