The giant panda at Edinburgh Zoo may be forced to return to China next year due to financial pressures, as the rent of Yang Guang and Tian Tian costs around £1 million a year.
The zoo, which had hoped the couple would have a 10-year contract with the Chinese government, may not be able to renew the contract.
Closures due to the Coronavirus resulted in a loss of £2 million incurred by the Royal Society of Animals in Scotland, which runs Edinburgh Zoo and Highland Wildlife Park.
David Field, chief executive of the association said “Yang Guang and Tian Tian have made a tremendous impression on our visitors over the past nine years, helping millions of people connect with nature and inspire them to take care of wildlife conservation.”
“I would like them to be able to stay a few more years with us and that’s definitely my current goal,”
He added “the closures had a “significant financial impact” on the charity because most of its income was from visitor fees.”
“Although our gardens have been reopened, we lost around £2 million last year, and it seems certain that the restrictions, social divergence and restrictions on our visitor numbers will continue for some time, which will also reduce our income.”
The support we have received from our members and animal lovers has helped keep our doors open, and we are very grateful,” Field said.
“At this stage, it is too early to determine the outcome. We will discuss the next steps with our colleagues in China in the coming months.”
The zoo is part of a number of protection projects, including a scottish wildcat reproduction project.
However, Field said such projects could also be cancelled because of Brexit and the inability to apply for grants from the EU.
“Since we are no longer part of the EU, our charity is no longer eligible to apply for funding from programmes such as LIVE, which have proven important to our work in wildlife conservation and wider efforts to protect animals from extinction.”