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Volunteers tackle invasive Japanese bamboo problem in Scotland with help from Edinburgh Zoo’s pandas

THE Woodland Trust are tackling an invasive Japanese bamboo problem in Scotland by enlisting the help from Edinburgh Zoo’s pandas.

Local volunteers last week filled an entire van with Sasa palmata bamboo that has been growing at Dunollie Woods in Oban for several decades.

The bamboo is thought to have spread to cover a quarter of a hectare with stems up to 4m in height.  

The volunteers cut down the bamboo
The Woodland Trust are tackling an invasive Japanese bamboo problem by enlisting the help of Edinburgh Zoo’s pandas.

When left untreated it kills other plants and can grow by two-and-a-half metres in height and four-and-a-half metres wide in ten years.

Instead of seeing the bamboo go to waste, Woodland Trust conservationists decided to donate the canes to Yang Guang and Tian Tian, the UK’s only pandas. 

And it is believed that more bamboo found around Scotland will also be donated to the panda pair too.

It currently costs £35,000 each month for food and healthcare for Tian Tian and Yang Guang so the delivery of their main food source will likely save costs.

Oban local Maurice Williams posted an image of volunteers at work at the site yesterday, writing: “A group of some 15 Woodland Trust volunteers hard at work cutting down bamboo beside the Witches on the edge of Dunollie Woods this morning. 

“We stuffed the van full – it will be taken to Edinburgh Zoo to feed the pandas and other animals. 

“The idea is to eliminate the bamboo altogether in time – it’s Sasa palmata, from Japan, very invasive here – and there’s a lot of it.

“I was imagining a Dunollie worker, coming into the yard many moons ago, being met by his boss with a number of potted plants. 

“‘I’d like you to plant these bamboos along the edge of the Witches, son. Now get on with it’.”

Locals thought the plan was great and loved the idea that Scotland’s pandas were helping out.

Matilda Scharsach said: “Well done team, that’s amazing. 

“Hope the pandas enjoy their west coast bamboo salad platter.”

Dawn Osborne Harris said: “That’s awesome.”

Maurice Wilkins said: “Maybe we should bring the pandas to Oban for a few weeks.”

Jill Bowis added: “Eat the shoots that come up to control the new growth.”

Dunollie Wood’s is home to hazel trees with rare lichens, mosses and fungi, bluebells carpet the woodland floor in spring.

Ross Watson
The Woodland Trust Site manager Ross Watson.

The Oban to Edinburgh bamboo delivery brings together two organisations supported by players of People’s Postcode Lottery. 

This was the first session of cutting the bamboo for the 15 volunteering from the Woodland Trust, but there is a great deal more still to be cut. 

Woodland Trust site manager Ross Watson today said: “We were kicking around ideas for useful things to do with the bamboo and of course everyone knows – pandas eat it. 

“So on the off chance we got in touch with the zoo and they were delighted to come pick it up. 

“One of the problems facing rainforest sites is invasive non-native species.

“Rhododendron ponticum is the most common one we have to deal with.

“Bamboo is rarer, but if we don’t act it will gradually take over the site. 

“It is a happy irony that work to restore one temperate rainforest has provided food for this iconic species from another temperate rainforest.”

Volunteers tackling invasive Japanese bamboo problem in Scotland
The pandas are helping tackle the bamboo problem.

Yang Guang is the male whose name means Sunshine in Mandarin and Tian Tian is the female whose name means Sweetie. 

Both pandas were born in August 2003 and turned 18 years old in 2021. 

They arrived at Edinburgh Zoo in 2011 as part of an agreement which includes donations to support giant panda conservation, welfare and research in China. 

99% of a giant panda’s diet consists of different types of bamboo – Yang Guang can eat up to 100kg of bamboo every day.

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