Edinburgh, Fife & East Scotland

Pandas go on display to public at Edinburgh Zoo

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Media captionTwo giant pandas, Tian Tian and Yang Guang, who arrived from China are settling in to their new home at Edinburgh Zoo

The first 600 pre-booked visitors have started viewing the giant pandas at Edinburgh Zoo, as they went on public display for the first time.

Groups have been visiting for 30 minute slots from 09:15 to see female Tian Tian and male Yang Guang.

Although the pandas arrived from China on 4 December they had been given time to recover from their long journey before going on display to the public.

Visitor numbers will mark a 200% rise on usual numbers for a December Friday.

Zoo officials said pre-booked tickets for the first weekend were up by about 80% on usual expectations for a pre-Christmas winter weekend.

Image caption Each giant panda enclosure has a glass wall for the public to view the animals

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 was a "primarily commercial deal".

They have claimed 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 pair will stay at the zoo for at least 10 years.

Real life

Denise Stronach, 46, from East Kilbride, said she was the first one through the gates.

She said: "It was absolutely fantastic. I'm ecstatic. I can't believe I was the first one. As soon as I knew the pandas were coming to Scotland, I kept coming into the zoo every time I was through in Edinburgh, asking: are they here yet?

"As soon as I found out the exact date, that was it. I was right down to be first on the list. I want them to have a wee baby and I want to be first to see that as well.

"It's a big thing for Scotland. It will bring so much tourism here."

Lesley MacNiven, 40, from Edinburgh, took her two young daughters to see the bears.

She said: "We are zoo members and we come at least once a month. The girls aren't at nursery on a Friday, so we thought: why not come on the first day?

"They've been following all the news reports and have been really keen to see the pandas, so it's been absolutely great. I've loved pandas myself since I was a child, so it was amazing to see them in real life.

"The enclosure looks fantastic. The panda looks quite at home there and not bothered about the visitors, which is lovely to see."

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