Panda snubbed for top honour as mate gains nomination

Edinburgh Zoo December 12 2011' Yang Guang, a male panda, makes his first appearance in front of the media since arriving from China.'Pic Neil Hanna
Edinburgh Zoo December 12 2011' Yang Guang, a male panda, makes his first appearance in front of the media since arriving from China.'Pic Neil Hanna
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AS AWARD nominations go, this one is far from black and white – only one of Edinburgh Zoo’s giant panda pair has been nominated for an international accolade.

Male panda Yang Guang has received one of three nominations for the attraction in the first ever Giant Panda Zoo Awards.

The awards, run by Belgian panda enthusiast Jeroen Jacobs, who also runs panda appreciation website www.giantpandazoo.com, are to honour those who aid in the conservation of the endangered animals all over the world, alongside some of the animals themselves.

Yang Guang has been nominated for Favourite Panda Outside of China, although Mr Jacobs insisted there was no “panda sexism” coming into play.

He said: “Only one panda from each zoo can be nominated and in this case I decided to pick the male.

“That’s not to say that Tian Tian is not an amazing bear, but whenever I have visited I have noticed how active Yang Guang is. He’s a very interesting bear and I’ve seen the wonderful reaction he gets.”

Mr Jacobs, 27, who lives in Antwerp, Belgium, has travelled to 29 countries to feed his passion for pandas, and visited Yang Guang and Tian Tian three times in 2012 alone.

He makes his living as an accountant and saw his first panda when he was just two years old.

He said: “I still remember being so struck by how they look.

“They are such incredibly rare creatures and the awards are to recognise the people who work for the preservation of these beautiful animals.”

Iain Valentine, director of Giant Panda Project & Strategic Innovations at Edinburgh Zoo, has been nominated for the Human Panda Personality of the Year award, while the zoo was also nominated for Panda Campaign of the Year, and Mr Jacobs is encouraging everyone to vote for their favourite pandas, panda people and panda places.

Nominee Mr Valentine said: “We’re delighted to be shortlisted in a number of award categories as part of the Giant Panda Zoo Awards 2013. Run by a panda fan, for panda fans worldwide, the website and its regular newsletters are a hugely informative tool.”

And he added that there was no consternation over Tian Tian not getting the nod, saying: “It’s particularly nice to see that it’s now Yang Guang’s turn to shine with his nomination for Favourite Panda Outside of China, as at the end of 2011 our female panda Tian Tian was nominated as one of the BBC’s females of the year. I’m of course honoured to be nominated as a Human Panda Personality and flattered to sit alongside my fellow nominees.

“Our final nomination for Panda Campaign of the Year for the first breeding season here at Edinburgh Zoo is also very timely as we start to approach the second panda breeding season.

“Last spring we were delighted that so many people were interested in following the mating season story of Tian Tian and Yang Guang, with over 930 million having the opportunity to see, hear or read the story and coverage 
appearing in 18 countries around the world.”

To cast your vote, visit www.giantpandazoo.com

Winners will receive a celebratory plaque.

Testing for fertility dates

Fertility tests are being carried out on Tian Tian to ascertain when the peak time for her to attempt to mate with Yang Guang will be.

The pandas are kept apart for all but the two days when Tian Tian is judged to be fertile, a 48-hour window usually between March and May.

Iain Valentine, director of the giant panda project at Edinburgh Zoo, said: “As seasonal breeders, panda hormones are dictated by light levels. The indoor lighting levels in their enclosures now simulate those of natural light levels, in line with sunrise and sunset.”

As the time draws nearer, the pandas’ enclosures will also be regularly swapped over.

Mr Valentine said: “This allows them to get used to each other’s scent and to mark in each other’s enclosures. This is vital as the male can tell when the female is coming into season by the change in her scent, and the female can tell if the male is sexually mature and capable of breeding by his scent and scent marking skills.”