Sunday, December 18, 2011

We're ready for our close-ups: Britain's two new pandas go on show to the public for the first time


Here's looking at you: Female panda,Tian Tian looks out at members of the public from her enclosure

The public were given the chance to see two giant pandas today 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.

Yang Guang kicks back and enjoys some foliage from his enclosure at Edinburgh Zoo

Looking a little cheeky, Yang Guang sticks his tongue out as he makes his way across rocks

Today 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 today, a 200 per cent increase on the usual gate numbers for a mid-December Friday.

Excited members of the public took photographs as they caught sight of Tiang Tiang at the zoo's enclosure for the first time

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.

Huge numbers: Zoo bosses said around 600 visitors pre-booked to see the pandas yesterday - a 200 per cent increase on the usual gate numbers for a mid-December Friday

'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.

Tian Tian explores her enclosure while Eve Miller wearing a woolly hat and gloves decorated with panda images looks on

Denise Stronach was excited to be the first one through the gates

Pre-booked visitor numbers for this weekend are up by about 80% on usual expectations for a pre-Christmas winter weekend, the zoo said.

A 'panda patrol' of 14 trained helpers will guide the expected influx of visitors keen to set eyes on female Tian Tian, whose name means Sweetie, and male bear Yang Guang, or Sunshine.

Edinburgh Zoo is their home for the next 10 years and it is hoped that the breeding pair, the first pandas in the UK for 17 years, will produce cubs during their stay.

The eight-year-old pandas spent the first few days recovering from the long flight and acclimatising to their enclosures, away from public view before yesterday

He said: 'We’ve been working for this moment for so, so long. When you get the public coming in today, it’s a moment that says it all because the pandas are here for everybody in the UK and everybody in Scotland.

'So to say: They’re here; come and have a look at them; enjoy them, it’s a great day.

'Ten thousand people have booked online pretty swiftly (to see the animals) in a cold, wet December. So I think that’s a good start.'

source: dailymail

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