Pandas 'very well' but jet lagged at Edinburgh Zoo
- 5 December 2011
- From the section Edinburgh, Fife & East Scotland
Two giant pandas are settling in "very well" in their new home at Edinburgh Zoo but are "jet lagged", officials have confirmed.
Tian Tian and Yang Guang, who arrived from China on Sunday by specially-chartered jet, are the first giant pandas to live in the UK for 17 years.
They have been sleeping and eating in a two-hour sequence in a bid to recover from their long journey.
They go on public display from Friday 16 December.
First Minister Alex Salmond has met Chinese vice-premier Li Keqiang in China to discuss further business links, and has personally thanked him for sending the pandas Tian Tian and Yang Guang.
Gary Wilson, Edinburgh Zoo's director of business operations, said: "They are getting on very well. We were really surprised how well they settled into their enclosure.
"They are obviously quite jet lagged.
"They are in a strange sequence of sleeping for two hours and eating for two hours, a bit like most humans when they fly half way around the world.
"They are very active within the internal area, they are walking around, they are doing a lot of eating of bamboo, scenting the area and getting familiarised, just like when you have a new home yourself."
During their nine-hour flight to Edinburgh by FedEx Express, the pair ate in-flight meals of bamboo, apples, carrots, a special panda cake and mineral water.
They were accompanied by a vet and two animal handlers from Edinburgh Zoo and the Bifengxia Panda Base.
Crowds gathered at the zoo to welcome the pandas as they arrived.
Tian Tian, meaning "sweetie", and Yang Guang, meaning "sunshine", will have two weeks to settle in to their new enclosure before going on display to the public.
Darren McGarry, head of animals at Edinburgh Zoo, told BBC Scotland: "Tian Tian is a bit of a sweetie, she is much more relaxed. She is a smaller panda, she likes to spend a lot of time away from the keepers.
"Yang Guang is a big ray of sunshine. He's a huge panda, really impressive.
"He spent a lot of time eating last night and seemed really happy as he was scent-marking his enclosure to say this is my territory.
"He is a big gregarious panda so I know he is going to be really popular with the visitors."
The pandas' new £250,000 home at the zoo includes two separate enclosures.
When Tian Tian comes into season the pair will be introduced to each other - possibly in February or March.
Tian Tian has had twin cubs in the past, and Yang Guang has also fathered cubs - though not as a pair together.
Animal welfare campaigners have criticised the zoo for accepting the pandas, saying it is a "primarily commercial deal".
They claim it is not a credible way to go about saving the giant panda.
Bringing the pandas to Edinburgh has involved a five-year effort by the zoo.
The eight-year-old pair will stay at the zoo for at least 10 years.
First Minister Alex Salmond thanked Chinese Vice Premier Li Keqiang for the "generous gift" of the pandas when they met on Monday during his visit to China.
The meeting in Beijing looked at how to build on the business and cultural links already established between the two countries.