EDINBURGH zoo will welcome its long-awaited pandas in less than a week, it has been revealed.
Tian Tian and Yang Guang will arrive in the capital just days after the First Minister flies to China to strengthen ties between the Communist country and Scotland.
The pair is expected to be a major draw for the attraction over the Christmas period.
The pandas, whose names mean Sweet and Sunshine in Chinese, were given to Britain as a “gift fromChina” earlier this year and have become a symbol of Scotland’s relationship with China.
They will be the first pandas to live in the UK for 17 years, and the first to call Scotland their home.
Their arrival was originally planned for August, to coincide with a visit to the zoo from the Duke of Edinburgh, but a series of delays saw the project put back.
Chinese delegates deemed the £250,000 enclosure unsuitable and demanded improvements be made before the new occupants arrived.
While the zoo refused to officially confirm the exact date of the pandas’ arrival, which has been a closely guarded secret, it’s expected that they will be settled into their new home on December 4.
An arrival date of next weekend increases the possibility that the public will be able to see them before Christmas.
It had previously been thought that because of the time needed to settle the pandas into their enclosure that a festive unveiling was unlikely.
However and early December arrival date means that if keepers decide they have adapted well to their new surroundings they could make their debut before Christmas.
The pair have already featured in UK wide advertising campaigns promoting Edinburgh’s festive attractions.
But plans to feature them in a TV campaign were put on hold due to the previous uncertainty about their arrival.
Tian Tian and Yang Guang are being delivered to Edinburgh Zoo from the Bifengxia panda base, near the Chinese city of Ya’an, which lies 700 miles south west of Beijing.
Zoo bosses hope the pair will breed after they arrive 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 news comes just days after the revelation that while the public would be able to view a CCTV footage of the male panda, Yang Guang the bear’s bedroom would be off limits to the public.
The spokesman said the camera ban would allow the animals some privacy and also allow the animals to be treated out of the public gaze.
The zoo says it will review the locations of the cameras after six months.
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.
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.
The deal to bring the pandas to Edinburgh, was sealed in January.