Forget pandas, penguins are back at the top where they belong - Susan Morrison

Yaung Guang munches on bamboo at Edinburgh Zoo (Picture: Lisa Ferguson)Yaung Guang munches on bamboo at Edinburgh Zoo (Picture: Lisa Ferguson)
Yaung Guang munches on bamboo at Edinburgh Zoo (Picture: Lisa Ferguson)
Have to admit outright and upfront, I am not a panda fan, so I do not grieve over their return to China. The excitement when our million dollar pandas rolled into town left me cold. As far as I could see, they didn’t do much.

They seemed to have survived as a species by carefully conserving their energy. Moving fast is not a panda trait. Their main activities seem to be sitting about chewing the bamboo and having a right old scratch.

In many ways, they were very Scottish, especially in winter. We are masters at the art of the corrie-in over the dark months.

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Give us some woolly socks, a cosy blanket and a box set on the telly and we can practically hibernate until spring. The scratching thing is more of an issue, and one that we tend not to talk about in polite society.

Of course, there was that little issue of no little issues. Our pandas did not seem to fancy each other one little bit. Our boy panda Yang Guang was described by one of the keepers as a "people pleaser”.

That’s all very well and good, Yang, but what about pleasing Tian Tian, eh? Not a move did that boy make, even when shown a Mating-for-Pandas video to give him an idea of what to do. Perhaps a voice over by Sir David Attenborough might have helped?

Tian Tian did her best. Back in 2013 she performed a forward somersault, executed some nifty "let’s get it on moves” and played with some balls.

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Stop that sniggering at the back. They were bright red play balls. The idea was that Tian Tian would chuck them about, get her scent on them and that would drive the boy wild.

Did he pick up the hint? No, he did not. Like so many Scottish males, he sniffed at his bright red balls – for the last time, class, stop that sniggering – and went off to shove his face in a bowl of apples and panda-cake, whatever that is.

Clearly, you should never take advice on how to win the man of your dreams from a panda, especially if it involves throwing bright red plastic balls about.

It didn’t help that pandas have an unfortunate resemblance to a pyjama case I had when I was a kid, which made me wonder if there was a zip up the back to shove a nightie in.

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Of course, the real reason for my panda phobia is that they kicked the zoos truly black and white stars off the top of the bill. The penguins. Now there’s a creature we can all admire.

My spirit animal is a penguin, especially if I’ve had just one too many gins and realise that speaking in sentences is a skill I’ve temporarily mislaid. The one bit of my brain still working sends out instructions to make "interested” noises at anyone who tries to talk to me.

At the same time, I tend to sway gently in a breeze only I can feel. As a result, I start to look like a Gentoo penguin on the edge of an ice shelf on the lookout for one of those pesky orcas.

Welcome back to the top of the bill, my penguin friends. Get right back where you belong.