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COVID crisis could force Edinburgh Zoo to give up lucrative pandas | Planet Attractions
     

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COVID crisis could force Edinburgh Zoo to give up lucrative pandas

The UK’s only giant pandas might not be able to stay in Scotland, with Edinburgh Zoo facing a £2m deficit




While very lucrative, pandas are also very expensive animals to care for   Credit: Xtina Yu on Unsplash

With COVID-19 causing huge problems for animal attractions across the world, Scotland’s Edinburgh Zoo has said that it will have to seriously consider sending its giant pandas back to China in an attempt to cut costs.

The cost of keeping two giant pandas over a decade is thought to be somewhere between £11m (US$15m, €12.2m) and £22m (US$30m, €24.4m), with that figure not factoring in the the 18,000kg of bamboo the animals eat each year.

Panda acquisition is also a highly political undertaking, with negotiation at the highest level of government needed for a country to be given permission to acquire pandas on loan from China’s government. In the case of Edinburgh Zoo, the deal coincided with a £2.6bn (US$3.5bn, €2.88bn) trade agreement between the UK and China in 2011.

Despite the high costs, pandas offer high reward, with the animals bringing global media attention, boosted attendance and subsequently increased gate receipts.

The zoo - which acquired pandas Yáng Guāng and Tian Tian on a 10-year lease ending in December this year - is the only animal attraction in the UK to currently house giant pandas.

With the global pandemic closing zoos through much of 2020 and attendance plummeting with constant lockdowns and restrictions, the animals have become a costly endeavour, which is forcing the attraction to consider its options. In 2020 Edinburgh Zoo management has estimated losses of more than £2m (US$2.7m, €2.2m) for the animal attraction.

David Field, chief executive of the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, said the zoo, which operates as a charity, would have to “seriously consider every potential saving” - including its giant panda contract.

“Although our parks are open again, we lost around £2m 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 said.

“We’ve done all we can to protect our charity by taking a government loan, furloughing staff where possible, making redundancies where necessary and launching a fundraising appeal. The support we have received from our members and animal lovers has helped to keep our doors open and we are incredibly grateful.”

While returning the pandas is an option, Field said that the zoo would prefer to keep the animals on for some time if circumstances allow.

“Yáng Guāng 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.

“I would love for them to be able to stay for a few more years with us and that is certainly my current aim but at this stage, it’s too soon to say what the outcome will be.

We will be discussing next steps with our colleagues in China over the coming months.”


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COVID crisis could force Edinburgh Zoo to give up lucrative pandas | Planet Attractions
news

COVID crisis could force Edinburgh Zoo to give up lucrative pandas

The UK’s only giant pandas might not be able to stay in Scotland, with Edinburgh Zoo facing a £2m deficit




While very lucrative, pandas are also very expensive animals to care for   Credit: Xtina Yu on Unsplash

With COVID-19 causing huge problems for animal attractions across the world, Scotland’s Edinburgh Zoo has said that it will have to seriously consider sending its giant pandas back to China in an attempt to cut costs.

The cost of keeping two giant pandas over a decade is thought to be somewhere between £11m (US$15m, €12.2m) and £22m (US$30m, €24.4m), with that figure not factoring in the the 18,000kg of bamboo the animals eat each year.

Panda acquisition is also a highly political undertaking, with negotiation at the highest level of government needed for a country to be given permission to acquire pandas on loan from China’s government. In the case of Edinburgh Zoo, the deal coincided with a £2.6bn (US$3.5bn, €2.88bn) trade agreement between the UK and China in 2011.

Despite the high costs, pandas offer high reward, with the animals bringing global media attention, boosted attendance and subsequently increased gate receipts.

The zoo - which acquired pandas Yáng Guāng and Tian Tian on a 10-year lease ending in December this year - is the only animal attraction in the UK to currently house giant pandas.

With the global pandemic closing zoos through much of 2020 and attendance plummeting with constant lockdowns and restrictions, the animals have become a costly endeavour, which is forcing the attraction to consider its options. In 2020 Edinburgh Zoo management has estimated losses of more than £2m (US$2.7m, €2.2m) for the animal attraction.

David Field, chief executive of the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, said the zoo, which operates as a charity, would have to “seriously consider every potential saving” - including its giant panda contract.

“Although our parks are open again, we lost around £2m 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 said.

“We’ve done all we can to protect our charity by taking a government loan, furloughing staff where possible, making redundancies where necessary and launching a fundraising appeal. The support we have received from our members and animal lovers has helped to keep our doors open and we are incredibly grateful.”

While returning the pandas is an option, Field said that the zoo would prefer to keep the animals on for some time if circumstances allow.

“Yáng Guāng 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.

“I would love for them to be able to stay for a few more years with us and that is certainly my current aim but at this stage, it’s too soon to say what the outcome will be.

We will be discussing next steps with our colleagues in China over the coming months.”


 



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