Sat 30 Jul 2016
This week I finally saw the famous giant pandas at Edinburgh Zoo!!
Tian Tian (Sweetie) and Yang Guang (Sunshine) are the only giant pandas in the UK. They are in Edinburgh on a ten year loan from China. They arrived in December 2011 and have brought many extra tourists to the city, all eager to see these rare and captivating creatures for themselves.
I visited the zoo previously with my husband and children in September 2014 and July 2015, but didn’t manage to see them. Both times we were unable to enter the enclosures. This was because the zoo thought the female Tian Tian might be pregnant and they were closely monitoring her. Unfortunately, the breeding programme has been unsuccessful so far and we are yet to see a panda cub in Edinburgh. Pandas only get one chance per year to become pregnant so it’s a slow process.
Pandas are very sensitive to noise and their enclosure is extremely popular, so you need to book a time slot in order to see them. We booked ours in advance on the zoo website, as we didn’t want to miss out again. Especially as we had family joining us from London, and they were so excited.
We spent the morning looking at the other animals and after lunch headed over to the pandas for our 13.45 slot. Staff informed us that both pandas were sleeping indoors and had been for most of the day, but indoor viewing was not currently available. This is due to this year’s approaching birthing season. We were all so disappointed – especially the kids! We walked past the empty outdoor enclosures, trying to catch a glimpse, but to no avail. However, staff did say we could return later in the day to try again.
About an hour later we returned. We came to the female’s enclosure first, and to our surprise Tian Tian walked right out and sat in front of us munching on some veg! We’d been told the female was very unlikely to come out during this time of the season, so we were amazed and delighted. She was beautiful and fascinating to watch. As no-one was expecting her to come out, we had a brilliant view. When she left, we moved on to the male’s enclosure. A large crowd had gathered so we knew something was happening. Yang Guang was laying on his back, looking very relaxed, chomping on bamboo! We couldn’t believe our luck that we finally managed to see them both. It was a really exciting atmosphere and a wonderful experience.
I would definitely recommend a visit to the zoo to see the giant pandas. Just be aware that you’re not guaranteed to see them, especially if you’re visiting in the summer months, as this is their breeding season and viewing is sometimes restricted or completely off limits. It has taken three visits, but we’ve finally seen them and it was unforgettable. We’re so lucky to have the pandas here in Edinburgh!
Edinburgh Zoo, 134 Corstorphine Road, Edinburgh, EH12 6TS