Zoo’s superstars are settling in nicely and ‘scoffing bamboo like there’s no tomorrow’

Edinburgh Zoo’s new giant pandas were said to be settling “extremely well” into their new new home yesterday, despite the effects of jet lag.

Experts caring for Yang Guang and Tian Tian said the pair were “very happy” after their 11-hour flight from China and have settled into normal behavioural patterns.

The male, Yang Guang, was said by head of animals Darren McGarry to be “scoffing our bamboo like there’s no tomorrow”, in line with his normal appetite in China,.

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The two pandas are due to go on display to members of the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland on 13 December, with the first public groups expected to see them just three days later, although the date may be put back if the keepers believe they are not ready for such exposure.

Only 3,386 visitors a day will be able to see them in person, at ten-minute intervals, although a third of tickets for slots will be held back to accommodate visitors who turn up on the day.

However the zoo’s eagerly-awaited panda cam is expected to start operating in the next few days due to the level of worldwide interest in the animals.

Mr McGarry said: “Tian Tian and Yang Guang have settled in extremely well, after what was a long day for them – and for us! We have been watching them closely as they adjust to UK time and they seem to be very happy so far.

“Fortunately the weather here is very similar to China’s, so they don’t have that readjustment to make.

“After an initial nose around, they have settled into a pattern of sleeping for two hours and eating bamboo for another two, which is normal behaviour.

“Yang Guang, in particular, is scoffing our bamboo like there’s no tomorrow – which his Chinese keepers assure us is no different to his usual large appetite. He is a big, gregarious panda, so I know he is going to be really popular. Tian Tian is a bit of a sweetie; she is much more relaxed. She is a smaller panda and likes to spend a lot of time away from the keepers.

“Both pandas seem to be enjoying their new enclosures and are engaging with their new keepers, who spent time with them in China before they left for the UK.

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“We’re delighted that they are comfortable and content, and we’ll be keeping a close eye on them for the next couple of weeks, before they go on view to the public.”

The two pandas are in separate enclosures – which have been built at a cost of £285,000 – and are expected to be introduced to each other in the spring.

They are expected to eat around £70,000 worth of bamboo each year.

Gary Wilson, the zoo’s director of business operations, added: “They are getting on very well. We were really surprised how well they settled into their enclosure. They are obviously quite jet-lagged.

“They are very active within the internal area, they are walking around, they are doing a lot of eating of bamboo, scenting the area and getting familiarised, just like when you have a new home yourself.”