I have been really grumpy these last few days – for lots of justifiable but thankfully minor reasons in the scheme of things. Today, however, is when excitement starts and will hopefully reign for the entire Festive Season. I am not talking about the election of Johann Lamont as Labour leader – although good luck to her as she tries to get that lot in order. I still think Willie Rennie is by far the most effective leader who will continue his knack for catching the SNP napping – but then I would say that, wouldn’t I.
The glittery delights of the Strictly Come Dancing final from the spiritual home of ballroom dancing, the Tower Ballroom in Blackpool, provide this evening’s entertainment. First though, we headed to Edinburgh Zoo to see their cuddly new arrivals, the Giant Pandas, for the first time.
Tian Tian (Sweetie) and Yang Guang (Sunshine) arrived from China to much fanfare 13 days ago. Since then, they’ve been settling in to their new home. Yang Guang showed off to the media on Monday and then they were open to members to go and see them from Tuesday until Thursday. We are members, but we decided to wait till today when we could all go together.
Although the zoo has been talking about little other than the pandas for months on end, when we arrived this afternoon, they were still putting up signposts. You can actually see the man’s arm as he’s putting it into position from his ladder:
The new zoo maps, with the pandas on, had only just arrived yesterday:
You can’t just turn up and expect to see the pandas – you have to book at least the day before even if you are a member. The day is divided into 14 different time slots. There were around 80 people on our 3.15 tour. I was slightly irritated that we had to physically print out and bring a bit of paper with a barcode on it – we weren’t allowed to show it on a smartphone or tablet, which seemed to be to be an appalling waste. Rather than scan the barcodes, they just collected boxes of paper. I hope they get the technology sorted soon.
The pandas’ new enclosure is situated in between the penguins and the monkeys. If it were me, I’d not be too chuffed at the noise the monkeys make – I’d be onto the City of Edinburgh’s noise team. Nor would I be terribly impressed at being downwind of the penguins. Actually, much further down the hill, the definite aroma of fish lingered in the air. I just hope the bears like it, that’s all I’m saying.
As we walked past the coffee house we were greeted by new posters:
and trees with low slung lanterns
Because the pandas were both in their indoor enclosures (which used to house gorillas, I think), the group was split into 3. It’s worth turning up early for your time, or you could theoretically be standing there for 20 minutes.
Suddenly we were ushered in. Yang Guang, the male, was sitting with his back to us right next to the window we were looking through. He was chomping away on his bamboo and as far as we could tell, looked quite happy. He’s been quite the little poser so far when it comes to the media pictures, but today he was nonchalantly munching. This is the best photo I could get of him.
In contrast, Tian Tian, the much smaller female, who’s very shy in comparison, seemed quite happy to pose for us. Anna’s taken some video which I’ll post later. These photos aren’t great. Much as I love my iPhone 3GS, the camera on it is not the best in the world. Bob has taken much better pictures on his camera and I’ll post them when he’s downloaded them.
Anyway, this is what I got of Tian Tian:
They are both incredibly cute and I hope that they bring lots of visitors to the zoo over the next decade. We did get a bit of a reminder of China’s record on human rights when the zoo keeper was telling us about the plans to introduce pandas into the wild – how anyone setting traps or hunting them was put to death. That made me feel a bit guilty at the way these animals are conferred by the Chinese as a diplomatic bargaining tool. If we don’t engage with them, though, they’ll never change, and as Amnesty Scotland’s new director Shabnum Mustapha said last week, raising the issue of human rights with China can help to reduce the repression.
I am sure we will be back to see them often. We didn’t get quite long enough with them. Maybe that’ll change at certain times of the year when the fuss has died down a bit. Having said that, it seems that all they do is sit and eat bamboo anyway, so 10 minutes watching that may soon be plenty.
Because we were so late, by the time we’d had a hot chocolate in the coffee shop, it was almost dark. I’d never been in the zoo in the dark before and it was quite spooky as we walked down.
We’d also never really been there at this time of year before, so we liked their Christmas decorations:
All in all, a very good way to chase away the malaise of the past few days.