Tian Tian and her mate, Yang Guang, Edinburgh Zoo’s giant pandas may have to return to China at the end of their 10-year contract with the Chinese government due to financial constraints, it has been reported.
While the Daily Mail has reported of footage of the two pandas enjoying the snowy conditions in Edinburgh, the Zoological Society of Scotland, which runs both Edinburgh Zoo and the Highland Wildlife Park, has faced financial pressures after being forced to close for three months in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic.
It costs the Society around £1 million a year to lease Tian Tian and Yang Guang, and chief executive David Field has said the charity will need to consider every potential saving, which includes the contract for the pandas.
“The closure of Edinburgh Zoo and Highland Wildlife Park for three months due to Covid-19 has had a huge financial impact on our charity because most of our income comes from our visitors,” he said.
"Although our parks are open again, we lost around £2 million last year and it seems certain that restrictions, social distancing and limits on our visitor numbers will continue for some time, which will also reduce our income.”
He added that he was ‘incredibly grateful’ for the support the charity has received that has helped keep the zoo afloat. Unfortunately, the zoo was not eligible for the Government's zoo fund, which was aimed at smaller zoos.
Mr Field also explained that the zoo is part of several conservation projects, such as one to reintroduce Scottish wildcats, but such projects may have to be scrapped due to Brexit and the ineligibility to now be able to apply for grants from the EU.
“Yang Guang and Tian Tian have made a tremendous impression on our visitors over the last nine years, helping millions of people connect to nature and inspiring them to take an interest in wildlife conservation,” he said.
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