Zoo makes fuss of pandas celebrating ninth birthdays

Tian Tian and Yang Guang will be getting a special birthday treat
Tian Tian and Yang Guang will be getting a special birthday treat
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They are the Capital’s biggest celebrities, have a endless supply of their favourite food and everyone wants to meet them.

So what do you get the pandas who have everything as a birthday gift?

Well, for staff at Edinburgh Zoo it seems the answer is bamboo boxes, bamboo candles and a special hammock for their biggest stars to relax in.

Keepers at the attraction will be panda-ing to Tian Tian and Yang Guang’s every whim as they plan their parties next month.

Officially, Tian Tian will celebrate her birthday on August 14, with Yang Guang’s falling ten days later.

As a special treat, Yang Guang is expected to get masses of box-shaped presents made out of bamboo canes, wrapped in large leaves and smeared in honey.

For Tian Tian, the keepers have a different surprise – a huge ice cake made from honey water and featuring bamboo shoots as candles.

As well as the tasty spread, bosses have hinted that the pandas could be in line for an extra treat, as hammocks made from recycled fire hoses are installed in their enclosures.

As part of the celebrations, Edinburgh Zoo’s education department will also be working with schools when they return for the new term year – just in time for Tian Tian’s birthday – with an event using GLOW, the school intranet webcast.

It will look at cultural stories about birthdays and food for pandas versus food for people and why people celebrate with birthday cakes.

Visitors are also set to be invited to help the zoo celebrate the pandas’ birthdays, although exact details of the plans are being kept a closely guarded secret.

Ahead of the birthday celebrations, the zoo has released giant panda viewing tickets for sale up to the November 30.

Since panda fever began when they went on display in December, they have attracted more than 300,000 visitors.

Head of visitor services Laura Condie said: “Advance bookings have already started to come in for later in the year, with people keen to secure their spot to see Tian Tian and Yang Guang as soon as possible.

“As the pandas’ first birthdays in Scotland come closer, we’re really looking forward to making a big fuss of Tian Tian and Yang Guang.

“It’s always exciting to see the visitors’ reaction when they first catch a glimpse of our pandas.”

And with both pandas turning nine – an auspicious number in Chinese culture – staff at the zoo will no doubt be hoping to hearing the pitter-patter of tiny panda feet next year.

• To book tickets to view the pandas, visit www.edinburghzoo.org.uk.

Window of opportunity

It might seem unusual that both Tian Tian and Yang Guang celebrate their birthdays in the same month, but there is a simple explanation.

Giant pandas have only a very short mating period, which occurs between the months of March and May each year.

During that time, the female goes into heat for just two or three days.

Pandas have a very low birth rate and it is particularly difficult to mate animals in captivity.

Although Yang Guang and Tian Tian tried several times, the bears did not manage to successfully breed during their first year at Edinburgh Zoo.