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Pandas leave Edinburgh Zoo for return to China

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The UK’s only giant pandas have left Edinburgh Zoo for their return home to China.

Pandas leave Edinburgh Zoo for return to China
Pandas leave Edinburgh Zoo for return to China

Tian Tian and Yang Guang will depart from the city’s airport for Chengdu this afternoon.

A 10-year loan, which was extended by two years during the pandemic, has come to an end.

A Boeing 777 cargo plane, operated by China Southern, will carry them on the journey home.

The pandas will travel in two bespoke metal crates, with sliding padlock doors, pee trays and removable screens so keepers can check on them during the flight.

The boxes are 190cm long, 146cm high and 127cm wide – roughly 6ft by 5ft by 4ft.

The pandas will be accompanied on the 13-hour flight by a keeper from Edinburgh Zoo and an RZSS vet alongside a Chinese representative.

It is expected the animals will be quarantined for a brief period before being introduced to their new home in Sichuan province.

Pandas leave Edinburgh Zoo for return to China
Pandas leave Edinburgh Zoo for return to China

The pair have been in Scotland since December 2011.

Conservationists had hoped female panda Tian Tian and male Yang Guang would breed while in Scotland.

However, the animals were unable to conceive despite several attempts.

The zoo and veterinarians from China made eight unsuccessful attempts at artificial insemination between the pair.

The last attempt was in 2021, after which the giant panda breeding programme was stopped.

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