Two giant pandas have left Scotland and are returning to China

Yang Guang and Tian Tian are on loan as part of a 10-year agreement between the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS) and the Chinese Wildlife Conservation Association

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Panda Yang Guang, photographed on November 29, 2023 in Edinburgh, Scotland Photo: Reuters
Panda Yang Guang, photographed on November 29, 2023 in Edinburgh, Scotland Photo: Reuters

Two giant Chinese pandas loaned to the UK twelve years ago have been put on a plane to China amid a thaw in diplomatic relations between London and Beijing.

Male pandas Yang Guang and female pandas Tian Tian, ​​who had been in quarantine since early November in preparation for the trip, left Edinburgh Zoo on a cargo plane that will take them to Chengdu in China's Sichuan province.

Scientists had long hoped that a pair of pandas, which arrived at the Zoo in 2011, would have a cub during their stay in Scotland, but that did not happen.

Yang Guang and Tian Tian are on loan as part of a 10-year agreement between the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS) and the Chinese Wildlife Conservation Association.

The two pandas have had an "incredible impact and inspired millions of people to take care of nature," said David Field, chief executive of the Scottish society, according to the PA agency.

These are the only examples of this endangered animal species present in Great Britain, which arrived there as part of the "panda diplomacy" led by Beijing, which lends its pandas around the world to improve diplomatic relations.

But relations have soured in recent years between China and some Western powers, including the US and Great Britain.

Last month, three giant pandas on loan since 2000 to the Washington Zoo were also returned to China, and four more pandas are due to leave the Atlanta Zoo in the US during 2024.

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