SCORES of excited families braved the freezing winter weather to get their first glimpse of giant pandas Tian Tian and Yang Guang today.
Panda fans living a few miles away mingled with Australians in the queue at Edinburgh Zoo early this morning.
As they waited for the gates to open, one woman played guitar to keep the crowd entertained. Another woman achieved the same effect simply by being dressed like a panda.
On the stroke of nine, the ticket office doors swung open and the day’s first batch of around 50 panda fans swarmed through to pay their £15-an-adult and £11-per-child entry fee.
A five minute stroll away, safe and warm in their £250,000 enclosure, the stars of the show munched bamboo, blissfully unaware of the pandemonium about to begin.
Andi McLean, was the lucky ticket holder to cut the ribbon and open the gates to the panda enclosure.
Looking both ecstatic and nervous, Andi, from Warrington, Cheshire, cut the ribbon while shouting: “What do I do, I’ve never done this before.”
As the national and international press jostled for the best pictures, 46-year-old Denise Stronach briefly threatened to steal the show from the pandas.
Denise, who took three buses from East Kilbride, to get there, was wearing a panda hair-band, panda bracelets, a panda necklace, a customized panda handbag containing two stuffed pandas, a sunshine and sweetie ring, panda clad shoes, and even pink panda socks.
Denise also wore a black and white jacket, black leggings, a black and white shopping bag and even wore black and white stars on the corner of her cheek.
The finishing touch to the panda inspired ensemble included a black and white star on the edge of her glasses.
She said: “I’m absolutely ecstatic. It’s fantastic- they’re so wonderful. They were so worth getting up at 5 this morning.
“Tian Tian is so loveable but the best thing was when we were looking at Yang Guang and he just looked straight at us as if he was posing for photos.”
Denise admitted she had been calling the zoo every day for the past month asking when they would be finally revealed.
She said: “I took three buses to be here. I’ve been up since 5 o’clock this morning. It’s been totally worth it. I’ll come back and visit them at the Chinese new year.”
While Tian Tian played happily in her outdoor part of the enclosure, Yang Guang stayed indoors.
In a possible sign of a Holywood-style tantrum, the panda had earlier taken exception to a branch in its outdoor enclosure and will stay indoors until it is fixed.
Once inside, however, the crowd oohed and aahed at 130kg Yang Guang who sat nonchalantly on his wooden platform chewing on a bamboo branch.
Sitting upright against the wall, one visitor was heard saying he “looked chilled” and “like he wanted a beer.”
The panda was seeminly very comfortable with the huge crowds pressing their faces against the window for a look.
He even paused and glanced at the crowds, making a pefect photo-op for the excited fans and media frenzy.
The group was then led to meet female Tian Tian who was much more active than her future partner.
The 96kg female has settled in well and was gleefully bounding around her leafy enclosure.
The bear plodded up and down the hilly pad, looking for bamboo. She then paused at the window of Yang Guang’s enclosure and stared in at him for a few moments before plodding back down to her water pool again.
Ribbon-cutter, Andi, 41, said he had driven for five hours on Thursday night to see the new arrivals.
Wearing a red jacket, blue jeans, a panda T-shirt and a panda earring, Andi said: “It’s absolutely brilliant. They were magnificent. I love pandas and I always have. Ever since I was little, I’ve always loved them.
“I volunteered with Pandas in China three times since 2008. They’re wonderful creatures but they’re very difficult animals to learn about so I decided to set up my own Panda website. I have a twitter feed and blog about Panda news from all around the world.”
“They’re getting accustomed to their enclosures. Tian Tian seems a bit nervous but hopefully by spring next year she’ll have settled in by mating season.”
Ben Hutchinson, 24, and Lear Diproc, 26 from Tasmania, Australia, were the furthest-flung visitors today.
The friends are inEdinburghon a working holiday. Ben, a radiographer said: “We got tickets this morning. We just happened to be visiting Edinburgh and heard about the pandas so we thought we’d give it a try.
“We have plenty of zoos back home but I’ve never seen a panda before. They were great, it’s nice to see them looking happy.”
Nurse, Lear Diproc, said: “They were beautiful, they’re such amazing animals.”