Edinburgh Zoo’s giant pandas to stay in Scotland for another two years
The UK’s only giant pandas arrived in Scotland in December 2011 as part of a ten-year arrangement between the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS) and the China Wildlife Conservation Association.

Following an agreement to extend their stay, the pair will now return to China at the end of 2023.David Field, RZSS chief executive, said: “We are thrilled that Yang Guang and Tian Tian will be staying at Edinburgh Zoo for two more years. “Through cooperation with our partners in China, we have had many successes over the past ten years in terms of technique exchanges, scientific research and public engagement.

“Yang Guang and Tian Tian have helped millions of people connect with nature, so it is fantastic that they will be with us a little longer before we say goodbye, especially as the pandemic has made it much harder for people to visit them.”

It is hoped that international travel restrictions will ease over the next two years so as Edinburgh Zoo keepers can travel with the pandas to help them settle into their new homes.
Mr Field added: “This will be ideal as they both have strong bonds with our panda team.”
The charity has confirmed that breeding will not be attempted during their final two years in Edinburgh.

Mr Field said: “A cub would have generated even more interest in giant pandas and given Tian Tian a wonderful opportunity to be a mother again, after she gave birth in China.
“However, natural and artificial insemination breeding attempts have not been successful and now is the time to move on and just enjoy having Yang Guang and Tian Tian with us for two more years.” 

Mr Field added: “We are very proud of the contribution we have made to giant panda breeding research alongside our partners at the University of Edinburgh and our findings have been of real benefit to international efforts to protect the species.” 

Plans will be made to convert the giant panda habitat at the zoo for a new species to arrive. 
“We are facing a biodiversity crisis and it is vital that we expand our work to protect more endangered animals around the world,” Mr Field said. 

“It is encouraging that the status of giant pandas in the wild has been moved by the IUCN from endangered to vulnerable thanks to conservation efforts in China.

China Focus: Ecological corridors help expand giant pandas' habitat
The ecological corridors established in west China have connected fragmented habitats of wild giant pandas, expanding their habitat range and facilitating the hybridization among different subspecies. At least two video clips showed giant pandas in the ecological corridors earlier this month, indicating that various subspecies from different areas were moving via these corridors, making high-quality cross-breeding possible.

In mid-October, China officially designated the first group of five national parks, including the Giant Panda National Park. Covering a total area of 22,000 square km, the park spans the provinces of Sichuan, Shaanxi, and Gansu. In Sichuan alone, where 87 percent of the park is located, six ecological corridors have been established in recent years, costing 374 million yuan (about 59 million U.S. dollars).

Yin Kaipu, from the Chengdu Institute of Biology, the Chinese Academy of Sciences, was among the first biologists who proposed the establishment of ecological corridors. "We have to reduce human activity and make the environment habitable for the giant pandas," said Yin, 78, adding that plants like bamboos and berries should be planted to simulate the original environment of mixed coniferous and broadleaf forests. Following his suggestion, the local government abandoned a hilltop road to give way to giant pandas.

Field surveys showed that the former vast habitat of giant pandas was segmented into separated areas, leading to the isolation of different regional subspecies. Among the 33 regional subspecies of wild giant pandas, 24 are on the brink of extinction because of their small populations, said Wang Fang, a researcher at the School of Life Sciences, Fudan University. Wang said isolated habitats lead to inbreeding, and natural disasters or diseases may cause extinction. "The most direct and simplest solution to the problem is to create corridors among the isolated areas so that giant pandas from these areas can move along and breed with each other," he said.

Fulinyuan, a forestry company based in Sichuan's Pingwu County, used to be engaged in the logging industry. In 1998, Sichuan Province launched a natural forest protection project, with loggers putting down axes and picking up shovels to plant trees. Yu Zhen, vice chairman of the company, said the forest rangers have grown fir trees and bamboos to restore the original forest environment.

"With the 100 infrared cameras installed, we have captured footage of giant pandas six times at the corridor area of Huangtuliang," said Yu.

Zhang Qian, an official with the Sichuan provincial forestry and grassland bureau, said the ecological corridors not only benefit giant pandas but are also favorable for the migration of other animals.

China's National Park:
Giant panda seen marking on a tree trunk
An image of a panda rubbing its butt against a tree trunk was found when rangers in Deyang section of the Giant Panda National Park were collating infrared camera data recently in southwest China's Sichuan Province.

Rubbing against a tree trunk is actually a marking behavior demonstrating its territorial rights. Pandas smear secretions from their perianal glands on pillars, tree stumps, walls, the ground, and places they often pass through. In the off-season, they will walk away at the scent of a strange panda, while during the rutting season, a female panda's scent may signal that she is ready to mate and wants to attract males.

According to the Deyang Bureau of the Giant Panda National Park, it was the first time that panda's marking behavior has been filmed since 2017 when the pilot panda national park system was launched. A total of 233 infrared cameras have been installed in the Deyang section for monitoring of giant pandas and other animal species. 

The Giant Panda National Park stretches through Sichuan, Shaanxi and Gansu provinces. The population of wild giant pandas in the cross-provincial national park is stable, with their habitats expanding and becoming more connected. 

Deyang section covers an area of 595 square kilometers, including a core protection area of 490 square kilometers. The 4,000-meter gap between the highest elevation of 4,989 meters and the lowest of 986 meters entices a rich array of rare wild animals and plant resources.

In October, China officially designated the first group of national parks, including the Sanjiangyuan National Park, the Giant Panda National Park, the Northeast China Tiger and Leopard National Park, the Hainan Tropical Rainforest National Park, and the Wuyishan National Park, which are home to nearly 30 percent of the key terrestrial wildlife species found in the country.
French Zoo's Panda Twins Make Their Adorable, Bumbling Public Debut
Huanlili and Yuandudu have taken their first clumsy steps into the limelight.

The female panda twins, born at France's Beauval Zoo in August, made their public debut on Saturday. For the big moment, the cubs' zoo home, located near Paris, shared a video of the panda pair taking slow, unsteady steps, attempting to scale small rocks, and rolling around on their fluffy black and white backs.

Huanlili and Yuandudu are only the second and third cubs born in France, according to The Associated Press. The first cub born in the country, Yuan Meng, arrived in 2017. All of the France-born pandas have the same parents, mom Huan Huan and dad Yuan Zi. The panda parents are on loan to the Beauval Zoo from China. The twins will eventually move to China as well to help bolster the country's native panda population.

For the next couple of years, Huanlili and Yuandudu will stay put in France to delight zoo guests and grow into happy, healthy adults. The four-month-old cubs' names were announced in November by France's soccer star Kylian Mbappe and Chinese Olympic diving champion Zhang Jiaqi. The athletes are also the twins' godparents.

For their public debut, Huanlili and Yuandudu appeared in their indoor habitat, where zoo guests could view the duo for a few hours. According to the Beauval Zoo, the cubs are working up the strength, mobility, and coordination to start exploring their outdoor habitat, which will likely take several months.

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