UK's newly arrived giant pandas make press debut

December 12, 2011 - 12:15 PM
Britain Giant Pandas

Giant panda named Yang Guang, explores his enclosure at Edinburgh Zoo in Edinburgh, Scotland Monday, Dec 12, 2011. Two 8-year-old giant pandas from China landed Sunday Dec. 4, 2011 in Scotland, where they will become the first to live in Britain in nearly two decades. The pandas, from the southwestern Chinese province of Sichuan, are to stay for 10 years at Edinburgh Zoo, where officials hope they will give birth to cubs. The loan marked the beginning of a U.K.-China research program on the animals, and both sides have described it as a signal of a growing friendship between Scotland and China. (AP Photo/Scott Heppell)

EDINBURGH, Scotland (AP) — The first giant pandas to live in Britain in nearly two decades made their highly anticipated U.K. media debut Monday and appeared to be settling in well at Scotland's Edinburgh Zoo.

Tian Tian and Yang Guang — or Sweetie and Sunshine — had already met at their enclosure's partition where they sniffed around and put their paws up at each other, zoo official Alison MacLean said.

"This is the second day they've been out and they're now just checking things out," she told reporters.

"It all went extremely nicely," MacLean said. "They were very happy with one another."

The arrival of the 8-year-old panda bear pair has set off a ripple of excitement and the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland is anticipating high demand among visitors.

Britain's last giant panda, Ming Ming, lived in the London Zoo until 1994, when she was returned to China. These pandas are expected to spend 10 years at the zoo, and officials are keeping their fingers crossed for a fruitful romance.

So were there any signs that giant panda cubs could be on the way?

"It's the million-dollar question really, isn't it?" MacLean said.

"They seem to get on extremely well together but we have to spend a bit of time and just make sure that the female is in season and receptive to the male. And then when she is, that's the point when we'll open the door.

"And after that, it's kind of down to them."

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Online:

http://www.edinburghzoo.org.uk/