Page last updated at 13:05 GMT, Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Brown supports zoo's panda plans

Giant panda - Robyn Rowles Photography
Two pandas are planned to be sent to Edinburgh Zoo

Prime Minister Gordon Brown has backed plans to bring a pair of giant pandas to Edinburgh Zoo.

In a letter to zoo owners, Mr Brown said the government "strongly supported" international co-operation to promote wildlife conservation.

The Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS) hopes to receive the animals on loan from the Chinese authorities from 2010.

The zoo would be the only one in the UK to care for the endangered animals.

However, the panda move is not supported by everyone. Ross Minett, Advocates for Animals campaigns' director, believes if Edinburgh Zoo wants to help Giant Pandas, it should focus on supporting in situ conservation in Chinese panda reserves, along with preserving the animals' natural habitat.

The society announced its proposal to include the pair of breeding giant pandas in its animal collection at Edinburgh Zoo earlier this year.

The Government strongly supports international co-operation to promote the conservation of the world's wildlife
Gordon Brown
Prime Minister

As part of a planned formal agreement with the Chinese Government, it will collaborate on research projects with Chinese conservationists and provide cash support for giant panda conservation projects in the wild.

The RZSS, which also owns the Highland Wildlife Park in Inverness-shire, said the UK Government's support represented a significant step in the process.

In the letter sent to chief executive David Windmill, Mr Brown states: "The government strongly supports international co-operation to promote the conservation of the world's wildlife.

"We therefore welcome the progress which the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland has made in its discussions with the Chinese authorities and wish you continuing success in bringing these discussions to a satisfactory conclusion."


Mr Windmill said: "The process of bringing giant pandas to Scotland is a long and detailed one that requires political co-operation at the highest level, so having the support of our Prime Minister is essential.

"Discussions will now continue with key officials in China and we hope to welcome giant pandas to Scotland in 2010."

The bamboo-eating creatures live in mountain ranges in central China, in Sichuan, Shaanxi and Gansu provinces.

The wild population is currently said to be about 1,500, although experts are not yet sure how May's devastating earthquake affected numbers.

The pandas that may be destined for Edinburgh are from the Wolong Breeding Centre in Sichuan Province, which was near the epicentre of the quake, the RZSS said.

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