Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, UK may return the only two pandas in the country, causing concerns among Chinese netizens
Published: Jan 04, 2021 11:16 PM

Yang Guang File Photo:VCG

Tiantian File Photo: VCG

Two giant pandas at Edinburgh Zoo, the only pandas in the UK, may be heading home due to financial pressures at the zoo, according to media reports. Chinese netizens have welcomed the news of the pandas’ possible return and it has become a hot topic on social media.

In an emailed reply to the Global Times, the communication team at Edinburgh Zoo said “it is too soon to say what will happen when our ten-year agreement ends in December 2021 and we will be discussing the next steps with our colleagues in China over the coming months.”

The reply cited David Field, chief executive of the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, who said that the closure of the zoo for three months due to the COVID-19 pandemic has affected income a lot.

"Although our parks are open again, we lost around £2 million ($2.73 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,” Field said.

The zoo tried to get support from the government, but they cannot access the government’s zoo fund because it is aimed at smaller zoos. So Edinburgh Zoo needs to find ways to cut costs, and keeping pandas is expensive.

Field said the two pandas, Tian Tian and Yang Guang, have made a tremendous impression on visitors over the last nine years, and he would love to let them stay for a few more years in the zoo.

Tian Tian and Yang Guang arrived at the zoo in December 2011 and are the UK's only giant pandas. According to the 10-year loan agreement, they should return to China in 2021.

After the reports that the zoo might send the pandas back spread on Chinese social media, many netizens said they would welcome the national treasures back home and hope they can return safely, given the serious pandemic spreading around the world.

“I want to go to the airport to greet our pandas if they send them back,” one netizen commented on Sina Weibo.

The pandemic has not just affected pandas at the zoo in Edinburgh.

Two other giant pandas, Da Mao and Er Shun, landed in Southwest China in November after prematurely finishing their stay at a Canadian zoo, as the COVID-19 pandemic had disrupted their bamboo supply.

There have been concerns among Chinese netizens about the health of another giant panda, Mei Xiang, who is at a zoo in Washington.

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