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Chinese pandas superstars in Edinburgh

By Zhang Chunyan (China Daily)

16:10, December 07, 2012

Chinese panda Tian Tian plays at Edinburgh Zoo on Wednesday. (Xinhua)

Since arriving a year ago in Scotland, two Chinese pandas have fully lived up to their superstar status, according to delighted officials at Edinburgh Zoo.

The duo, Tian Tian (Sweetie) and Yuang Guang (Sunshine), have attracted hundreds of thousands of visitors, including Queen Elizabeth's daughter Princess Anne, actress Nicole Kidman, Chinese Ambassador to Britain Liu Xiaoming and a host of politicians and VIPs.

They have boosted membership of the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland by 20 percent and helped sell 70,000 cuddly panda toys.

In 2011, Edinburgh Zoo had 525,000 visitors, but since its Chinese guests arrived, it's expected that more than 800,000 will go through its gates to see them by the end of 2012.

"The first panda year has been a great success," said Iain Valentine, director of research and conservation at the zoo. "The pandas are very famous in the UK and even more popular than we had expected," he added.

When the two pandas first arrived, hundreds of people welcomed them off their specially adapted aircraft at Edinburgh airport. Many more gathered at the gates of the zoo to see them arrive safely.

Countless news organizations reported the event, with one newspaper declaring that "panda mania" had hit the Scottish capital.

In the months that followed, Tian Tian was named one of the BBC's Faces of the Year in 2011, and both she and Yang Guang were chosen to receive an honorary Scottish Thistle Award for their services to the Scottish tourism industry.

Adding to the unique accolade, the award was carved out of bamboo, their favorite foodstuff.

To celebrate the first anniversary, the pandas will be served extra "panda cakes", nutritional supplements containing eggs, rice and soya, said Valentine.

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