Due to financial constraints, Edinburgh Zoo’s giant pandas will have to return to China next year. According to BBC, Yang Guang and Tian Tian cost about £1m a year to lease from China.
The zoo, which had hoped to breed the couple, is approaching the close of its 10-year lease with the government of China but will not be able to extend the agreement.
For the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, which manages Edinburgh Zoo and the Highland Wildlife Park, Covid lockout restrictions resulted in a £ 2m loss.
David Field, the society’s chief executive, said the charity would have to “seriously consider every potential saving” including its giant panda deal.
Mr. Field said closures had had a “huge financial impact” on the charity because most of its income was from visitors.
“Although our parks are open again, we lost around £2m last year and it seems certain that restrictions, social distancing and limits on our visitor numbers will continue for some time, which will also reduce our income,” Mr. Field said.
“Yang Guang and Tian Tian have made a tremendous impression on our visitors over the last nine years, helping millions of people connect to nature and inspiring them to take an interest in wildlife conservation.
“I would love for them to be able to stay for a few more years with us and that is certainly my current aim.”
The zoo had also taken a loan from the government, furloughed employees, made redundancies, and started a fundraiser appeal, but was not approved for a zoo grant from the UK government targeted at smaller zoos.
“The support we have received from our members and animal lovers has helped to keep our doors open and we are incredibly grateful,” Mr. Field added.
“At this stage, it is too soon to say what the outcome will be. We will be discussing next steps with our colleagues in China over the coming months.”
The zoo is part of a number of restoration efforts to reintroduce Scottish wildcats, including one.
However, because of Brexit and being unable to qualify for grants from the European Union, Mr Field said projects like that would still have to be scrapped.
“We received a £3.2m grant from the EU Life programme to support our Saving Wildcats partnership project, which aims to restore wildcats in Scotland by breeding and releasing them into the wild.
“Wildcats are on the brink of extinction in Britain and this is the last hope for the species’ survival.”
He added: “As we are no longer part of the European Union, our charity is no longer eligible to apply for funding from programmes like EU Life, which have proven critical for our wildlife conservation work and wider efforts to protect animals from extinction.”
As a result, the conservation genetics laboratory of the Edinburgh Zoo, which funds conservation programs internationally, has lost access to both grants and other researchers.
It also faces problems related to transporting animals, many of which are part of European breeding programs for endangered species.
At present, the initiative is around £ 900,000 away, which means it will have to be scrapped.
Mr. Field said: “We still need to reduce costs to secure our future. It may be that some of our incredibly important conservation projects, including the vital lifeline for Scotland’s wildcats, may have to be deferred, postponed or even stopped.”