Edinburgh, Fife & East Scotland

Panda bamboo to be grown at Edinburgh Zoo

Yang Guang with bamboo Pic: Alison Maclean
Image caption Giant pandas consume a large amount of bamboo every day

Edinburgh Zoo is to grow its own bamboo to feed its eagerly-awaited giant pandas.

It will initially cultivate 15% of the 18,000kg of bamboo required to feed the animals annually.

The plant will be grown on the grounds of the zoo, with the rest being provided by specialist German firm Reiner Winkendick.

It is hoped Tian Tian and Yang Guang will arrive in Edinburgh before the end of the year.

The breeding pair will consume 20 three-metre bamboo stems each day and be given about 25 different species of the plant over the year to replicate their diet in the wild.

While bamboo forms almost all of their diet, they also have an appetite for rats, mice, pikas (rabbit-like creatures), insects and other vegetation.

The zoo hopes to increase the amount of bamboo it provides for the animals after the first three years.

Image caption Female Giant Panda Tian Tian in her enclosure at the Bifengxia Panda Centre

Simon Jones, Edinburgh Zoo's gardens manager, said: "Our bamboo strategy is the result of more than three years of research, planning and exhaustive negotiations with suppliers across the UK and Europe.

"Our starting point was to ensure a long-term supply of fresh bamboo that was both sustainable and cost-effective."

Mr Jones said bamboo formed a fundamental part of the giant panda diet, so the zoo had to guarantee consistency of supply and ensure the bamboo was of the highest possible quality.

He added: "Our German supplier grows exclusively for zoos across Europe and has a proven track-record in the large-scale provision of specialist animal feed - including for giant pandas currently in captivity in Berlin and Vienna.

"But we also wanted to procure a supply nearer to home, which is why we have five growing sites spread across the zoo's grounds.

"At any one time, our home-grown supply can provide up to three weeks' worth of bamboo - enough to cover any emergency situation."

Image caption A glass walkway will allow people to see into the panda nursery at Edinburgh Zoo

There are about 1,450 species of the plant found growing on all of the world's continents, apart from Antarctica.

Bamboo is the fastest-growing grass on the planet and has been recorded growing at 47.6in in a 24-hour period.

The largest types can grow more than 30m (98ft) tall and be as large as 6in to 8in in diameter.

It can tolerate extreme conditions, with some species being found 4,000 metres above sea level in the Andes and Himalayas.

Other animals that eat bamboo include the red panda of Nepal and bamboo lemurs of Madagascar, as well as mountain gorillas in Central Africa.

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