After an impressive tenure of almost twelve years at Edinburgh Zoo, the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS) has announced that the beloved giant pandas, Yang Guang and Tian Tian, will be returning to China in December 2023. These pandas have left an indelible mark on wildlife conservation, connecting millions of individuals with the wonders of nature.
Yang Guang and Tian Tian arrived at Edinburgh Zoo in December 2011 as part of a ten-year agreement between RZSS and the China Wildlife Conservation Association. This agreement was later extended by two years. While the exact date of their departure is still being finalized, preparations are underway.
Alison Maclean, the carnivore team leader at Edinburgh Zoo, shared, “We are making arrangements with our partners in China for Yang Guang and Tian Tian to return in early December, possibly during the first week. Visitors to the zoo can expect to see them indoors and outside until the end of November, after which viewing will be outdoors only until they leave. Having cared for Yang Guang and Tian Tian since they arrived in 2011, I will be traveling back to China with them, to help them settle into their new homes.”
David Field, RZSS chief executive, emphasized the significant impact these giant pandas have had on inspiring people to care about nature. He noted, “Through scientific research alongside the University of Edinburgh, we have also made a significant contribution to our understanding of giant pandas, which will be of real benefit to efforts to protect this amazing species in China.”
As Yang Guang and Tian Tian bid farewell, the giant panda habitat at Edinburgh Zoo will be repurposed to support a new species that RZSS aims to conserve in the wild. Details about this new species will be revealed in the coming year.
Field highlighted RZSS’s broader conservation efforts, stating, “Our vision is of a world where nature is protected, valued and loved, which is why we have made an important pledge to reverse the decline of at least 50 species by 2030. With a fantastic home at Edinburgh Zoo, combined with our international expertise in conservation science and research, we have an opportunity to help protect a new species through public engagement here in Scotland and in the wild by working with global partners.”