Fears that Edinburgh Zoo’s attention on pandas means less popular species pushed to wings

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The giant pandas and other “rock star” animals at Edinburgh Zoo are taking centre stage at the expense of less popular species, according to a report.

Inspectors who visited the zoo praised the quality of the new enclosures but warned ‘deteriorating’ older buildings used to house other animals were at risk of being neglected.

The assessment, carried out by Edinburgh City Council in April, also found some structures were in need of immediate repair, including the big cat viewing overhang and the ­flamingo house.

The inspection was carried out as part of a review of the attraction’s licence, and in general the inspectors were favourable, saying there was “much to commend” and describing the new giant panda enclosure as “excellent”.

But the report concluded: “The collection is saddled with a lot of older buildings which are deteriorating and in need of maintenance or replacement.

“While these usually do not represent a danger to animals, staff or the public, they tend to detract from the visit experience and are in danger of being neglected in favour of new exhibits.”

Two unsafe areas which were accessible to the public – the 
penguin pool and defunct herbivore enclosures – were discovered.

Inspectors also asked for better accommodation for animals in the zoo’s Discovery Centre and Brilliant Birds exhibit.

Darren McGarry, head of animals at the zoo, insisted the majority of the improvements had been made.

He said: “The inspectors were extremely complimentary about the zoo and work of the society, and very happy with new additions like the panda enclosure.”

A condition that the enclosure that houses the zoo’s sea lion be upgraded was made obsolete after it was announced six-year-old Sofus is to move to a Polish zoo this month.

The inspection said there were “satisfactory” measures in place to prevent the escape of animals, but found “one or two” instances where gates were held shut by padlocks alone.

In the past year, a 95-stone Heck bull, a family of hogs, an ibis and a baboon have all escaped from their enclosures.

The zoo was also asked to carry out a “biosecurity” review after office material was found in the same room as food ­storage.

Mr McGarry said: “Two areas under maintenance, the penguin enclosure and the old herbivore enclosure, were unfortunately accessible to members of the public briefly on the day of inspection due to external contractor error – this was immediately rectified.

“The recommendations made regarding food storage, preparation and delivery were made on the same day also – essentially keepers were advised not to keep paperwork in the same room.”

He added repairs had been made to the flamingo house and saki walk and the overhang on the big cat walkway had been confirmed as safe, with final repairs to be finished this month.

“As the site dates back to 1913 and covers 83 acres, it is to be expected that Edinburgh Zoo has a continuous rolling programme of maintenance that we assess on a priority basis.

“We have a planned programme of revamping older enclosures, as is currently evident by the extensive refurbishment and development of our penguin pool.”

He added: “With regard to the Discovery Centre, this is something that we were already planning to review as a whole, and we jointly agreed with inspectors how the Brilliant Birds reptile area should be modified.”

It has been recommended the zoo’s licence, to be considered by the council’s regulatory committee this month, be renewed.

Rock Stars and No Stars

Giant Pandas: the biggest draw for zoos worldwide, Tian Tian and Yang Guang are kept in a specially constructed £250,000 enclosure surrounded by bullet-proof glass.

Penguins: Edinburgh Zoo’s most famous residents – until the arrival of the giant pandas. Their penguin enclosure is currently being refurbished at a cost of £750,000.

Koalas: Koalas Goonaroo and Yabbra, are housed in a purpose-built enclosure created in 2005.

Lions: Asian lions Kamlesh and Jayendra are kept in specially-designed £300,000 enclosure opened in 1999.

Meerkats: Returned earlier this year to a newly-created enclosure.


Sea lions: Male Patagonian sea lion Sofus is being moved to Poland as the zoo cannot afford to upgrade his enclosure.

Royal python: The sub-saharan snake is

one of many animals kept in the Discovery Centre which was criticised in a recent inspection for a lack of space.

Chilean flamingos: The flamingo house was found to have “rotting fascia boards”.

Bali starling: Widely regarded as the most beautiful of the mynah family, this is among the birds kept in the Brilliant Birds enclosure which inspectors said also needed improvement.