Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 20 September 2014

Pandas get first public showing

Eve Miller watches Tian Tian the panda in its enclosure at Edinburgh Zoo
Members of the public are getting their first chance to view Tian Tian the panda
Members of the public queue to see the pandas at Edinburgh Zoo

The public were given the chance to see two giant pandas when they went on display for the first time since arriving from China.

Tian Tian and Yang Guang have been getting used to their new home in Edinburgh Zoo since they arrived on Sunday December 4. The eight-year-olds spent the first few days recovering from the long flight and acclimatising to their enclosures, away from public view.

Members of the public filed past the two enclosures in groups of around 25, where they took photographs and were given a short talk by a zoo guide. Zoo bosses said around 600 visitors have pre-booked to see the pandas, a 200% increase on the usual gate numbers for a mid-December Friday.

Denise Stronach, 46, from East Kilbride, said she was the first one through the gates.

She said: "It was absolutely fantastic. I'm ecstatic. I can't believe I was the first one. As soon as I knew the pandas were coming to Scotland, I kept coming into the zoo every time I was through in Edinburgh, asking: 'Are they here yet?'

"As soon as I found out the exact date, that was it. I was right down to be first on the list. I want them to have a wee baby and I want to be first to see that as well. It's a big thing for Scotland. It will bring so much tourism here."

Lesley MacNiven, 40, from Edinburgh, took her two young daughters to see the bears.

She said: "We are zoo members and we come at least once a month. The girls aren't at nursery on a Friday, so we thought why not come on the first day?

"They've been following all the news reports and have been really keen to see the pandas, so it's been absolutely great. I've loved pandas myself since I was a child, so it was amazing to see them in real life.

"The enclosure looks fantastic. The panda looks quite at home there and not bothered about the visitors, which is lovely to see. I think that's a real privilege for the zoo to have them and a real testament to the good work that they do here. It will attract more people to Edinburgh and the zoo and that can only be a good thing."

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