Lure of the pandas sees zoo visitor numbers triple

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Visitor numbers at Edinburgh Zoo are up 200 per cent thanks to the recent arrival of giant pandas.

Around 70,000 people have seen Tian Tian and Yang Guang since they went on public display in December, more than three times the number who visited the zoo in the same period of 2010.

Around 1000 cuddly panda toys, some costing as much as £40, have been bought from the zoo shop each week since the animals went on display.

Edinburgh Zoo chief executive Hugh Roberts said: “We’ve been fully booked almost every day so far and expect the popularity of Tian Tian and Yang Guang to continue. Visitors’ faces have been amazing, both young and old. For the vast majority of people this is the first chance they’ve had in their lifetime to cast their eyes on a giant panda.”

Visitors are not charged extra to view the pandas but time slots need to be reserved due to the high demand.

Around 200 spaces are available for each half-hourly interval and this scheme has been extended to March to ensure as many people as possible can see the bears each day.

Mr Roberts added: “As well as being incredibly endangered, they are an extremely cute and anthropomorphic animal.

“People are often amazed to see for themselves that pandas are quite happy to make eye contact and our visitors can learn lots of interesting facts from our panda patrols.”