The gift this week of a breeding pair of giant pandas which have been sent by the Government of China to Edinburgh Zoo, the first pandas in Britain for 17 years since the death of ChiChi the London panda, has been heralded as a breakthrough in Sino-Scottish relations. Only 166 of these rare, iconic bears live in captivity, and to be given a breeding pair is the greatest honour conferred by Beijing on a country. Edinburgh Zoo has given and will be expected to continue giving to panda conservation projects in China, and the new home of the current pair will be equipped with homegrown Scottish bamboo (formerly used to make canes in their strict education system) and video cameras recording every movement of the pair and their future – we hope – offspring.
“This has really put Scotland back on the map as far as the capability of producing viral video is concerned” said Scotland’s YouTube Statistics Improvement Committee Angus Macdonald told us. “If one of yon wee uns should perchance sneeze in the Scottish winter weather, we’ll be picking it up at 35 frames per second and Dolby Nicam stereo. The chances are that within two years the existing sneezing panda video will be old hat, and all the hits will be going to our Scottish sneezing panda video. ‘Sneezing Panda Baby’ was a great viral one of the greatest of all time, envied by all the countries of the world. But we in Scotland are now firmly on the way to rival that viral.”
However, not all voices on the street in Edinburgh were positive at this development. “How can we accept this gift without overlooking all the questionable human rights issues involving China? Is accepting this pair of pandas are we not saying ‘yes the human rights complaints are all very well, but not as important as having a nice pair of cuddly bears to look at” said Mary McCulloughanalough, zoology student. “Besides, they aren’t even real bears, they are actually marsupials, they are only called bears”.
“That is not true” another passerby interjected, who later introduced himself as Stephen J. McGould, author of a book about pandas who had come to inspect the thumbs of the new arrivals. “You are thinking about koalas. There was a controversy over whether giant pandas are true ursines or whether they should be classified with the raccoons, like the red panda. However science has now been able to resolve this by reading their genome, and it transpires that in fact they are bears after all. Which indeed you can tell by looking at them. In my book about the panda’s thumb, you can read why the panda is in fact a living fossil, which has not been seen in Scotland since the last Ice Age.”
We asked celebrated celebrity pet broker Hamish Anderson whether, in the event of Scotland cracking the mystery of the reproduction of these elusive breeders, giant panda cubs would be a hit in the exotic pet trade. “I have already received enquiries from some American female popstars, but from my research it is not a species I would recommend. Anything which is critically endangered in the wild ought not to be diverted out of properly monitored conservation programmes, but even if, in say one hundred years, we were in the happy position that the panda was no longer endangered, the species is known for having an unpredictable temper and jaws with sharp teeth capable of crushing bamboo. It is capable of defending itself and its cubs from attacks by tigers, so it is not really an animal I would want to see around children.”
- Giant pandas come to Britain (guardian.co.uk)
- Zoo to welcome giant panda pair (mirror.co.uk)
- UK zoo welcomes pandas from China 30 years after Ted Heath got Chia-Chia and Ching-Ching (dailymail.co.uk)
- Pass notes No 2,908: the giant panda (guardian.co.uk)
- Giant pandas come to Britain under historic deal with China (telegraph.co.uk)
- Edinburgh Zoo panda deal clinched (bbc.co.uk)
- Giant pandas from China help seal new business deals with UK (guardian.co.uk)
- Giant panda pair coming to Edinburgh zoo as gift from China (mirror.co.uk)