Edinburgh zoo’s big pandas might need to return to China subsequent yr on the finish of its 10-year contract with the Chinese authorities, on account of monetary pressures.

The Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, which runs Edinburgh zoo and the Highland Wildlife Park, confronted huge monetary strain when it was pressured to shut for 3 months through the summer time.

It prices about £1m a yr to lease a mating pair. David Field, the society’s chief govt, stated the charity must “seriously consider every potential saving” together with its contract for 2 big pandas, Yang Guang and Tian Tian.

Field stated: “The closure of Edinburgh zoo and Highland Wildlife Park for three months due to Covid-19 has had a huge financial impact on our charity because most of our income comes from our visitors.

“Although our parks are open again, we lost around £2m 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.

“We have done all we can to protect our charity by taking a government loan, furloughing staff where possible, making redundancies where necessary and launching a fundraising appeal. The support we have received from our members and animal lovers has helped to keep our doors open and we are incredibly grateful.”

The zoo was not eligible for the federal government’s zoo fund, which was aimed toward smaller zoos.

Field added: “We have to seriously consider every potential saving and this includes assessing our giant panda contract and the cost of their daily care. At this stage, it is too soon to say what the outcome will be. We will be discussing next steps with our colleagues in China over the coming months.”

The zoo is a part of various conservation tasks, together with a scheme to reintroduce Scottish wildcats. However, Field stated tasks reminiscent of which will additionally need to be scrapped due to Brexit and being unable to use for EU grants.

He stated: “We received a £3.2m grant from the EU Life programme to support our Saving Wildcats partnership project, which aims to restore wildcats in Scotland by breeding and releasing them into the wild.

“Wildcats are on the brink of extinction in Britain and this is the last hope for the species’ survival.

“As we are no longer part of the European Union, our charity is no longer eligible to apply for funding from programmes like EU Life, which have proven critical for our wildlife conservation work and wider efforts to protect animals from extinction.

“We have a leading conservation genetics laboratory at Edinburgh Zoo which supports conservation projects around the world, and suddenly access to both funding and other researchers for this cutting-edge science has disappeared.

“While the full impact is yet to be seen, we are also facing increased challenges around moving animals between zoos, many of which are part of important European endangered species breeding programmes.”

The programme is about £900,000 brief, which means it could need to be cancelled.

Field stated: “We nonetheless want to scale back prices to safe our future. It could also be that a few of our extremely vital conservation tasks, together with the important lifeline for Scotland’s wildcats, might need to be deferred, postponed and even stopped.

“Yang Guang and Tian Tian have made an incredible impression on our guests during the last 9 years, serving to tens of millions of individuals hook up with nature and galvanizing them to take an curiosity in wildlife conservation.

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