Edinburgh Zoo has been condemned for spraying adverts on city pavements.
The zoo is under fire over the ads, which it admits it did not get permission for and may need to be removed with a high-pressure hose.
City officials have rapped the zoo over the knuckles saying the appearance of the city’s streets had to be protected.
The 2ft by 2ft bright orange stencils were sprayed on city pavements 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 graffitiing 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.”
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 or 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.”