Edinburgh Zoo’s popular giant pandas may have to return to China because of financial losses caused by the pandemic.
The zoo pays the Chinese government about £1 million (RM5 million) a year to lease Yang Guang and Tian Tian, and is nearing the end of its 10-year contract.
Covid lockdown closures have led to a £2 million (RM10 million) loss for the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, which runs Edinburgh Zoo.
Chief executive David Field, said the charity would have to “seriously consider every potential saving”, including its giant panda contract.
He said closures have 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 £2 million (RM10 million) 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,” 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.”
Zoo authorities and Scottish schools had hoped the pair would breed and encourage children to take an interest in endangered species.
“I would love for them to be able to stay for a few more years with us and that is certainly my current aim,” said Field.
The zoo has already taken a government loan, furloughed staff, made redundancies and launched a fundraising appeal, but was not eligible for the UK government’s zoo fund, which was aimed at smaller zoos.
“At this stage, it is too soon to say what the outcome will be,” Field told the BBC. “We will be discussing next steps with our colleagues in China over the coming months.”