Lifestyle & Belief

Giant pandas Tian Tian and Yang Guang begin journey from Chengdu to Edinburgh Zoo (VIDEO)


Brian Young, a maintenance painter, helps with final preparations at Edinburgh Zoo for the arrival of giant pandas Tian Tian and Yang Guang on December 2, 2001 in Edinburgh, Scotland.


Jeff J Mitchell

Giant pandas named Tian Tian and Yang Guang — or Sweetie and Sunshine — are on their way from Chengdu, China to Scotland, to begin expat life in Edinburgh Zoo.

The pandas, a breeding pair, are only on loan according to Xinhua, citing he China Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda (CCRCGP).

The Royal Zoological Society of Scotland is paying more than 600,000 pounds ($935,000) a year to China for the privilege — not including the expense of imported bamboo — The Associated Press reported.

It is hoped they will breed during their scheduled stay of 10 years: Only 1,600 of the endangered animals remain in the wild in China, while about 300 others live in captivity. 

The loan of the giant pandas follows five years of negotiations, Agence France-Presse reported, adding that the "China Wildlife Conservation Association gave the final go-ahead after a visit to Scotland in October."

China is famed for its "panda diplomacy," using the endangered bears as diplomatic gifts to other countries.

Beijing also recently agreed to lend two giant pandas to a French zoo for 10 years starting from early 2012.

Xinhua, citing the CCRCGP, wrote that Yang Guang and Tian Tian were born in 2003 and had been living in Sichuan province ever since.