Giant pandas en route to Scotland

Dec. 4, 2011 at 8:31 AM
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EDINBURGH, Scotland, Dec. 4 (UPI) -- Two giant pandas left China en route for the Edinburgh Zoo in Scotland Sunday as part of a loan program officials hope will result in the pair breeding.

Tian Tian, meaning "sweetness," and Yang Guang, meaning "sunshine," are being accompanied by a veterinarian and two animal handlers on a chartered flight, the BBC reported. The eight-year-old pandas will live at the zoo for at least 10 years.

While a spokeswoman for VisitScotland praised the new additions to the zoo as an attraction for tourists, animal rights campaigners have said the move is less about conservation of the animal and more about making money.

Chris Draper, of the Born Free Foundation, called the arrangement a "short-sighted and retrograde step."

"Over time, I suspect we will see that this has less to do with conservation or education, and much more to do with resurrecting the fortunes of a fading visitor attraction," he told the BBC. "Tian Tian and Yang Guang are not 'flagships,' nor even diplomatic gifts, but commodities in a primarily commercial exchange."

In order to make a smooth transition for the pandas, Edinburgh Zoo staff members trained at the China Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda, the Chinese news agency Xinhua reported.

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