THE PLAN to bring two Chinese pandas to Edinburgh Zoo has been hit by mysterious travel delays.
Zoo bosses had anticipated a rush of visitors flocking to see Tian Tian and Yang Guang over the festive period.
But it is now unlikely they will go on display until next year.
Their expected public debut was previously scheduled for before Christmas.
But the panda’s £300,000 newly-built enclosure will lie empty until the giant bears arrive from China.
One member of staff at the zoo said: “We are still hoping the pandas will arrive before the end of the year, but we don’t know much more than that.
“But whenever they do arrive, people won’t be able to see them for a couple of weeks while they settle in.”
Another source at the zoo said: “An announcement is pretty imminent that the pandas will be coming by a certain date, but we won’t be in a position to say when people will be able to see them for a while.
“That will be down to the judgement of the keepers and will be based on how they are settling in to their new environment.”
The panda enclosure will feature a climbing frame, surrounded by bulletproof glass which will allow 600 spectators an hour to see the animals.
The zoo had to demonstrate to the Chinese government that it had the commitment and expertise to take care of the rare bears.
Keepers hope the pair will breed in Scotland, which would be a rare accomplishment.
It is notoriously difficult to breed pandas in captivity, with the females of the species only becoming fertile for one day every year.
The zoo has been in talks with the Chinese authorities, who have guardianship of most of the world’s pandas, for three-and-a-half years.
A spokeswoman for Edinburgh Zoo said: “The Chinese authorities are yet to confirm an arrival date. We’ve been working hard to prepare for the needs of our newest residents and we are ready for them whenever the Chinese government makes the decision to send Tian Tian and Yang Guang.
“We are anticipating an arrival before the end of the year and the pandas will be ready to meet the public once they are settled into their new home.”
The animals will be fed with bamboo imported from the Netherlands, which will cost around £70,000 a year.
Edinburgh Airport has not yet received a date for the transfer from China. The transport hub will need to put security arrangements in place for the bears’ arrival.
Tourism body Visit Scotland is only telling potential visitors it is ‘hopeful’ the pandas will arrive before Christmas.
The deal to bring Tian Tian and Yang Guang, meaning ‘Sweet’and ‘Sunshine’ respectively, to Edinburgh, was sealed in January.