Bamboozled uni builders find a treat for pandas

Kevin Higgins delivers the bamboo, found by Balfour Beatty workers at Edinburgh University
Kevin Higgins delivers the bamboo, found by Balfour Beatty workers at Edinburgh University
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a SECRET stash of bamboo discovered in the city is set to provide a surprise snack for Edinburgh Zoo’s giant pandas.

Workers landscaping the garden area of Edinburgh University’s William Roberston in George Square were amazed when they came across 100 square metres of fresh bamboo.

The cultivation has now been gifted to the zoo for giant pandas Tian Tian and Yang Guang.

While the gift was gratefully received, the amount of bamboo is not expected to last the hungry duo long – with estimates suggesting it will keep them fed for just two days.

Kevin Higgins, project manager for Balfour Beatty, which was in charge of the work, said: “Because the plants we found are still growing, we didn’t immediately realise that they were in fact bamboo.

“Luckily we have quite a few guys working for us who know a lot about plants, and they 
recognised it.”

He added: “Our remit is to clear the existing garden area and reinstate it with hard landscaping, but rather than throw out the bamboo we thought ‘why not help the zoo?’

“We sent a sample of it to them, who tested it and gave it the all-clear for the pandas.”

The specialist nature of a panda’s diet means that Tian Tian and Yang Guang only enjoy particular types of 
bamboo.

The bamboo found in the George Square garden had grown to almost 40cm in height and weighed roughly two tonnes, including the roots and attached soil.

The amount of edible bamboo within the cultivation, however, will be just enough to satisfy panda hunger pangs for two days, as each can consume up to 50kg per day.

But Tian Tian and Yang Guang won’t be getting their paws on it just yet.

Robert Harden, gardens manager for the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, said: “Although we cannot accept every donation, the bamboo found in this case passed our strict tests and we were happy to replant it on site at the zoo.

“I’m sure Tian Tian and Yang Guang will enjoy tucking into this Scottish-grown 
bamboo as soon as it reaches maturity.”

It costs between £50,000 and £70,000 a year to provide enough shoots to feed both pandas. At the moment 15 per cent of the bamboo required is grown at special sites around the zoo, giving visitors a chance to learn about the cultivation process.

The rest of the supply is grown in plantations at a 
nursery on the outskirts of Amsterdam.

The bamboo, which is organic, is delivered every two weeks and kept in a specially created storage facility to ensure maximum freshness.

The zoo has also established a network of local suppliers who can provide the pandas with their required three 
to four meals a day should anything unforeseen occur.

jen.lavery@jpress.co.uk