Monday, 5 December 2011


This weekend saw the MSM was agog and awash with news about Edinburgh Zoo's latest residents, now labelled 'the rock stars of the animal world'.  Why can't I get excited?

Is it to do with the artificial enthusiasm of those involved in this most strange 'diplomatic' occurrence or is it to do with my belief that animals should be allowed to thrive in their natural environments?  Perhaps it's a little of both.

Edinburgh Zoo is a 'charity' which should be registered as a commercial enterprise. The cost of visiting this Scottish attraction is £15.50 for me alone (nearly half my weekly bill for food) and family tickets are between £33.70 and £57.60. I've never been a lover of zoos and neither were my parents, so I never visited one until I was an adult and away from home.  Funnily enough my first visit to a zoo was to the one in Edinburgh when I was around 18. It wasn't very enjoyable although the penguins tried hard to play to their audience and, being teenagers, some of us were intrigued to see animals we had only read about in story books.

But that was 1964 and I'm amazed that 47 years later, when so many can afford to travel, there's so much enthusiasm for viewing Sweetie and Sunshine (aka Tian Tian and Yang Guang) out of their country of origin. For them it's not just a case of sitting around and eating imported bamboo, but they must procreate to make their expensive world trip worthwhile.  The bill for their 10 year visit will be around £8 million including the £700,000 annual payment the zoo will make to China for the privilege of having their national animals grace their rather faded and failing enterprize.

I have no problem with businesses introducing new ideas to boost their profits, but using live animals under the canopy of improving relationships with China, is a few steps too far.

In my lifetime China has risen to be one of the world's greatest economies, partially due to British companies moving their production facilities there. It's assumed Margaret Thatcher created the downfall of Scottish industry; perhaps she did, but she was ahead of the game.  Without her input Scotland would have lost much of her industry anyway to the likes of China. She only accelerated the demise with her free market ideology.

Yesterday politicians were queuing up to claim credit for the expensive loan of Sweetie and Sunshine.

A reader sent the following by email:

 Look at it from the pandas' viewpoint. Exiled to a foreign land at the whim of an overlord, away from their friends and family and familiar lands. Suddenly surrounded by jabbering monkeys and not able to roam freely on the land (although I understand these two were kept in captivity). Seems like a cruel and unusual punishment to me.

It may not be cruel or a punishment, but to be placed on a 10 year secondment to Scotland may not be the triumph it's been heralded if they don't live up to their new masters' expectations.


Oldrightie said...

"is it to do with my belief that animals should be allowed to thrive in their natural environments?"

In a nut shell. or should I say bamboo shoot?

Anonymous said...

It all seems a bit strange to me. I think the breedng in Zoos to safeguard specifies is significantly tenuous whether it be pandas or any other sort of animal. If it needs done do it where the species lives.

I don't think we have a right to see animals out of their natural habitats. Things have improved for those who end up in "enclosures" but it still doesn't seem right.

The BBC coverage was incredible. So many words, so little said, so little to say in the first place. Oh look there's a panda in a plastic box. Oh there's the lorries arrived at the Zoo. They're taking a comfortable route from the airport to the Zoo. What? Not the normal shooglie route then and the bit through the tram works at Gogar?

This must be the zoos last chance to get their finances in order. fail this time and it's all over.

JRB said...

These cute cuddly creatures don’t come cheap - with an estimated annual bill in excess of £8million

I only hope Edinburgh Zoo can sustain such costs for the next ten years once the initial novelty value has waned.

Or will it end up like the Edinburgh tram’s fiasco, needing rescued from disaster?

RMcGeddon said...

As has been said on other threads. There are now more pandas in Scotland than Tory MPs'
Who will ensure the Tories don't become extinct ?
Could we import a couple from England and have a breeding programme ?
Surely Tory MPs' are more important than pandas ;) ?

Apogee said...

Hi RM. Why? What use would they be?
And which ones to select.It would be a hard choice, and their stable mates would be an even harder choice !

JRB said...


correction – inserted ‘annual’ in error, should have read …
“ - with an estimated [] bill in excess of £8million”
was trying to do the arithmetic without sufficient caffeine in the system.

@R McG please say you would have a webcam in the enclosure just like the Pandas. Often wondered how Tories behave in their private habitat.

RMcGeddon said...

Hi Apogee.
Off the top of my head I can only think of Theresa May and Eric Pickles...
Oh and no I can't think of a use for them either.

JRB.. I'm not sure if the webcam would be legal or for family viewing ;)

Macheath said...

There was a distinctly Chinese flavour to the spectacle of hordes of children lined up at the side of the road obediently wavin little flags as the two Fed-ex lorries pased by - I bet it played well for the folks back home.

subrosa said...

Aye I suppose it should be bamboo shoot OR. :)

subrosa said...

The whole media coverage was incredible TT. Every time I passed the television some channel was on about it. By the time I wrote it last night it was the only piece of news around.

The zoo should have been closed years ago. It's well passed its sell-by date.

subrosa said...

JRB, I think the £8m is the price for the 10 year loan at £700,000 a year to the 'gift givers'. I mean, who gives a gift and expects financial returns on it?

Seemingly China also have tight control over the conditions in the zoo and the animals' welfare.

subrosa said...

Breeding Tories RM? I don't think the zoo would get many visitors for that spectacle.

subrosa said...

Ah JRB, I didn't read this one before I wrote the first reply.

Please, please, not a webcam. I couldn't bear to watch the endless hours they sit reading the Telegraph and listening to the Archers.

subrosa said...

Macheath, I received an email from a friend whose grandson was part of the hordes and she felt exactly the same. Her words were 'it felt sinister'.

It will probably be played on television over there with the head men silently nodding their approval.

Clarinda said...

Job done - thanks to BBC Scotlandshire overblown diversion tactics on Pandarama - we know virtually nothing about our First Minister's visit to China. Of course it will be precisely analysed and reported by .... Glen Campbell .... and where is the autumn poll just published showing increasingly positive news for Independence.

Gentlemen - my cheese and pickle lunch is now on hold until I can rid myself of the imagery of your proposed Tory Captive Breeding Programme - it may indeed be too late and more appropriate to call in the taxidermist?

Crinkly & Ragged Arsed Philosophers said...

Children are cheap today!

William said...

Are they Protestant Pandas or Catholic ones?

Why couldn't we just have swapped Salmond for the pandas? One party would have a got a docile, tubby creature that eats and sleeps and, of course, we would have got the pandas.

I really don't mind animals in the zoos. How many weans are going to fly to China to see pandas or Africa on safari? It's great you can see these creatures in our country.

microdave said...

I must confess I wasn't aware of the financial aspect in any detail, but I was astonished to see that a bloody great Boeing 777 was chartered specifically to transport them!!!

Fer gawds sake - couldn't they have shared the trip with some other cargo???

Demetrius said...

Didn't Edward Heath have a thing about pregnant Pandas? Wasn't it after this his career came to a sticky end? Why wasn't there an exchange? We could have sent some of our politicians to Sichuan for exhibition. Any ideas who?

Clarinda said...

Demetrius - if it was a Still Life exhibition, we could send a small Labour group representation as they're pretty well stuffed in the first place?

subrosa said...

Is Mr Campbell accompanying the FM Clarinda? That'll be why there's little on the BBC.

subrosa said...

They're part of the bamboo sect I'm reliably informed William.

With the amount of natural history programmes (some excellent) on television these days William, I don't think children are deprived of knowledge about many animals.

subrosa said...

Plus more staff than is usually provided for a plane full of humans microdave.

subrosa said...

I'm sure other readers will suggest a few names Demetrius. :)

William said...

SR, there is no substitute for experiencing something in the flesh - whether that's a place or an animal.

Surely you would agree that pornography is no substitute for a real sexual relationship with another human being?

subrosa said...

Excellent analogy William and one with which I would have to agree.

However, that doesn't make it right for us to keep every animal in captivity. This morning I spent some time watching a couple of red squirrels cavorting round the garden. If they had been in an enclosure, the pleasure would have been greatly reduced.

We'll have to agree to disagree about keeping certain animals in captivity William. However, I'm told that Edinburgh Zoo does some good work in other research and for that they should be commended.

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