It is one of Scotland’s biggest tourist attractions and home to the only giant pandas in the UK – but the word on the street is Edinburgh Zoo could be in trouble for a publicity stunt.
Bosses at the zoo have been slammed after they decided to spray-paint a series of adverts on pavements around the city in a bid to drum up business.
And the attraction has admitted it did not get permission to place the adverts, which have irritated local businesses, and is likely to face the cost of having them removed by a high-pressure hose.
The 2ft by 2ft bright orange stencils were sprayed on pavements in areas of Edinburgh to try to attract visitors to the zoo’s new Meerkat enclosure.
But the zoo’s attempt to use pavements for free advertising backfired as businesses and politicians lined up to criticise the institution.
Donna Hand, owner of Rest Now Cafe, in Leith, just yards from one of the zoo ads, said: “Who pays the bill when the council have to come and clean that? It’s the taxpayers.
“If we want to advertise we have to pay, and so should they.”
Another shop owner, who asked not to be named, complained: “If that was a little shop we would be hit with a fine from the council for graffiti-ing as well as advertising without permission.
“With the festival coming up you can imagine the streets being covered in paint.”
Scottish Conservative chief whip John Lamont said: “I can’t believe the zoo thought it would get away with a ‘gorilla’ advertising campaign like this.
“With the high profile the attraction enjoys, you wouldn’t think they would need to resort to this. And more seriously, if the zoo is seen to be resorting to defacing the city’s pavements, it hardly sets an appropriate example to other organisations.”
City officials have also rapped the zoo over the knuckles, saying the appearance of the city’s streets had to be protected.
A council spokeswoman said: “The council doesn’t encourage commercial advertising of this nature in order to protect the appearance of our streets across the city.
“We are currently in discussion with Edinburgh Zoo about the stencils in question.”
An Edinburgh Zoo spokeswoman insisted the stencils were temporary and could be washed off with “a high-pressure hose”.
She added: “We understood that permission wasn’t required for the stencils but can easily rectify this and tidy things up.”
The Zoo is likely to see large crowds over Easter with renewed interest in the Giant Panda pair Tian Tian and Yang Guang as they prepare to try for a cub.
Experts recently confirmed that Tian Tian’s hormones indicated she was almost ready to mate, and Panda behaviour expert, Professor Wang Chengdong, from the China Conservation and Research Centre for Giant Pandas (CCRCGP), flew into the city on Friday in order to assist local staff.