Barbara Smith: Giant lanterns proved a really bright idea for zoo

Barbara Smith says the Giant Lanterns event shone a new light on the zoo. Picture: Greg Macvean
Barbara Smith says the Giant Lanterns event shone a new light on the zoo. Picture: Greg Macvean
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RZSS Edinburgh Zoo was delighted to announce last week that The Giant Lanterns of China was its most successful event ever.

The colossal lantern festival brought more than 80,000 extra visitors through our doors during the winter months and surpassed all our expectations as the biggest cultural event the zoo has ever hosted.

As a predominantly outdoor site, there is always a challenge to maintain visitor numbers during the colder months. It encourages us to get creative and find new ways to entertain and inform our visitors. Hosting Scotland’s biggest ever Chinese lantern festival was an exciting opportunity to shine a new light on the zoo during the winter season and reinforce our position as one of Scotland’s top visitor attractions.

The project was made possible thanks to a partnership between the VYA Creative Lantern Company and DDM Entertainment and Events Inc – both teams worked together to create and design the installations and event concept.

The event was originally inspired by the zoo’s resident giant pandas, Tian Tian (Sweetie) and Yang Guang (Sunshine), who were born in Sichuan Province, China. They featured among the 469 giant lanterns and the giant pandas installation was a favourite of many visitors.

Edinburgh Zoo is part of the Edinburgh Tourism Action Group (ETAG), which helps drive Chinese tourism to the city, and we’re proud that this event has showcased Chinese culture to both local residents and tourists. As a result, the event became the biggest celebration of Chinese New Year in Scotland and one of the largest in the UK.

Ultimately, everything we do at RZSS Edinburgh Zoo is underpinned by animal conservation. From our cutting-edge WildGenes genetic and genomic research laboratory in Edinburgh Zoo to the Budungo conservation field station in Uganda protecting wild chimpanzees, we work day and night to safeguard species from extinction and connect people with nature. For example, among our more unusual lantern installations were the giant snails which represented our successful conservation project to protect rare Partula snails and bring the species back from near extinction. The event allowed us to show the project in a new light and inform our visitors about the crucial work we carry out.

Every animal is important. We’re delighted that we can help give even the smallest animals some well-deserved attention with a big impact event that captured the attention of visitors from across the country and internationally.

We have an exciting programme of events and activities lined up at Edinburgh Zoo in 2018. I hope that with them we can encourage more visitors to explore the zoo, learn about our work and highlight the incredible contribution that RZSS makes here in Edinburgh and around the world.

Barbara Smith is CEO of RZSS