Panda-monium as gold dust tickets to say goodbye to Edinburgh Zoo pandas snapped up in 90 minutes

More than £42,000 was spent in just 90 minutes on tickets to say goodbye to Edinburgh Zoo’s giant pandas before they head back to China later this year, it has been revealed.

Pandas Tian Tian and Yang Guang -- also known as Sweetie and Sunshine -- could leave their home at Edinburgh Zoo as early as late October, despite an MP writing to the Chinese Consulate urging them to allow the 19-year-old animals to stay in the capital.The Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS), the conservation charity that operates Edinburgh Zoo, announced last week a range of special "events and experiences" to give its star attractions a "giant farewell" as preparations are made for their departure.The RZSS said that tickets went on sale online at 10.15am last Monday and all available experiences priced from nearly £30 up to £500 were completely sold out by 11.45am.Officials have revealed that the ticket sales raised over £42,000 to help support its work to save animals in Scotland and around the world. The experiences included "Pandas and Pancakes", a one hour guided tour to the pandas' home at the Zoo followed by breakfast and general Zoo admission for £29 per adult; and the "Bamboo Brunch" tour and brunch for £48.50. Also sold out are behind-the-scenes "Giant Panda Magic Moments" experiences priced at £500 per person.A limited number of the "Directors Tour of Edinburgh Zoo" -- a "bespoke VIP experience for two" including "guaranteed access to meet and feed a giant panda", were still available yesterday, priced at a £5000.David Field, RZSS chief executive, said: "We would like to thank everyone who booked a giant panda experience and supported our charity’s work to save animals from extinction in Scotland and around the world."While our limited panda Magic Moments and breakfast tours are now sold out, we will be providing as many opportunities as possible for people to say goodbye and celebrate the tremendous impact Yang Guang and Tian Tian have had on our communities."The RZSS said funds raised would be used to help save wildlife from extinction, including species in Scotland such as the wildcat and pine hoverfly, chimpanzees in Uganda and giant armadillos in Brazil.Tian Tian and Yang Guang arrived in Edinburgh in December 2011 as part of a ten-year arrangement between RZSS and the China Wildlife Conservation Association. The RZSS later negotiated a two year extension due to the Covid-19 pandemic.Officials recently revealed the pandas may return to China as early as the end of October this year. The animals will return to China without having any offspring, however, despite attempts at natural breeding and artificial insemination since 2013.

The animals' return to China will happen in spite of efforts by Edinburgh West MP Christine Jardine, who has written to the Chinese Consulate to see if they will "think again and ensure the pandas' wellbeing has been carefully considered."

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Ms Jardine added: "Tian Tian and Yang Guang have become used to their environment and routine having been in Edinburgh for over ten years. It would be detrimental to their emotional, spiritual and physical welfare for them to be moved after such a long period of time."

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