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December 14 - 20 2011
By Auslan Cramb and Richard Alleyne THEY arrived as a couple but they will spend the majority of their lives apart.
The first pandas to come to Britain in almost two decades will be housed in adjacent cages separated by a tunnel.
But while they will rarely see each other, it is hoped that the animals will come together for a crucial few days a year — to mate.
The enclosure is designed to mimic their habitat and behaviour in the wild and to prevent them fighting, as has happened with previous attempts to breed pandas in captivity.
Flown to Edinburgh on a private jet to be greeted by a crowd of thousands, there was no doubting the couple’s superstar status. Waiting for them was a welcoming party on the red carpet, a bagpiper and bamboo cake.
Tian Tian and Yang Guang — the names translate as Sweetie and Sunshine — are the first giant pandas to live in the UK for 17 years, in what is seen as a return of “panda diplomacy”. They flew with four dedicated staff and were treated throughout as VIPs — Very Important Pandas.
Capt Paul Cassel, the chief FedEx pilot, said the pair were “not unlike humans in first class, who sit back, eat, drink and enjoy the ride”. Tian Tian appeared subdued after the
10-hour flight from Chengdu in the Sichuan province of China, while the “happy go lucky” Yang Guang looked, like any weary long-haul passenger, eager to escape.
They will spend 10 years at Edinburgh Zoo as part of a global conservation programme. Their semidetached homes cost £250,000 and come with caves, pools and climbing features.
Their keepers hope they will become the first giant pandas to breed in Britain, potentially in February when Tian Tian could be receptive for 48 hours. Their arrival marks the culmination of a five-year project, backed by the Princes Royal, David Cameron and Alex Salmond, the Scottish First Minister. It
‘Mistletoe? What sort of panda do you think I am?’
is hoped the project will be more successful than previous attempts.
In 1974, prime minister Edward Heath returned from China with Ching-Ching and Chia-Chia for London Zoo. Keeping them proved so expensive that the zoo launched a public appeal for funds. Sadly the pair never produced cubs and, after Ching-Ching’s death in 1985, Chia-Chia was sent on a permanent breeding loan to Mexico City Zoo.
Without its star attractions, London Zoo started negotiations for a new pair and, in 1991, Ming Ming arrived from China and Bao Bao from Berlin Zoo. However, they fought savagely and also produced no cubs. They were sent home in “disgrace” in 1994.
The latest pandas were met by Michael Moore, the Scottish Secretary, Nicola Sturgeon, the Deputy First Minister, and the Chinese Charges d’Affaires.
Their annual food bill is estimated at £70,000. Although their diet consists mostly of bamboo, they will also eat rats, mice and eggs. The zoo will also pay around £600,000 a year to the Chinese authorities to lease the animals.
Though there are only an estimated 1,600 pandas left in the wild, animal welfare groups criticised the project as “primarily commercial”.
Yang Guang settles in, top, after arriving by plane, left. The panda team at Edinburgh Zoo join the panda fever as their new charges arrived in Scotland, above
Andrew Osborn In Moscow IT WAS not a chant that many had ever expected to hear. But hear it they did as up to 50,000 Russians stood, the snow falling, a few hundred yards across the Moskva river from the Kremlin.
“Russia without Putin! Russia without Putin!” they roared as they gathered to hear the internet blogger who had just taken to the stage.
Only last year beaten badly for writing something the authorities did not like, Oleg Kashin appeared to be without fear as he addressed his audience at the biggest anti-government rally to be held in Russia for two decades. “The most powerful weapon we have,” he declared, reading from a statement, “is a sense of our own dignity. We must not take it on and off like we would a velvet jacket.”
The crowd, there to protest against the allegedly rigged parliamentary election, filled a square opposite the citadel that houses Russia’s authoritarian government.
“This handful of people and their media servants are trying to convince us that the falsification of votes in favour of their party of crooks is a prerequisite if we want hot water in the taps and cheap mortgages,” Mr Kashin said.
The crowd roared with approval. But the man who had penned the statement Mr Kashin read was not there to enjoy the moment. Alexei Navalny, an anti-corruption blogger who is rapidly becoming a leading light in the opposition movement here, was languishing in a Moscow jail, serving a 15-day term for his part in an earlier protest. Boris Nemtsov, another opposition leader, was there, though, despite being detained last week. Following his lead, people began chanting “Putin out!” as a police helicopter hovered ahead and 50,000 interior ministry troops and riot police looked on.
Such scenes, which were repeated in dozens of Russian towns and cities, were unthinkable a week ago when Mr Putin’s grip on power seemed solid.
The protesters said they would give the Kremlin two weeks to announce changes or be back on the streets as early as Christmas Eve.
Build-up to the protests, page 14
By Rowena Mason THE Queen’s role as head of the Church of England may no longer be “appropriate” following changes to the law of succession, a group of MPs has suggested.
Reforms agreed earlier this year by Commonwealth countries would create a potential conflict of interest because they allow a monarch to marry a Roman Catholic, said a parliamentary committee. If a future heir to the throne were raised as a Catholic, there would be an “obvious difficulty” in that person becoming head of the Anglican Church on their succession.
Under current laws, the monarch is required to “join in communion” with the Church of England and take the role of Supreme Governor, promoting Anglicanism in Britain. The report, by the political and constitutional reform committee, said: “The scenario does beg the question of whether it remains appropriate for the monarch to be required to be in communion with the Church of England.
“The most obvious difficulty in having a Catholic monarch – beyond the purely statutory obstacles – is the Crown’s role as Supreme Governor of the Church of England.”
The MPs said Parliament “may wish to consider” the current relationship between the monarch and the Church of England. Graham Allen, chairman of the committee, said the report was “leaving the door open for the Government if they want more change”. He added: “There could be more in this if the Government were prepared to ask us to go and delve into it a bit more.”
A spokesman for the Church of England said: “You can’t be Supreme Governor unless you are in communion with the Church of England. The sovereign should join in communion with the Church of England and it is integrally bound up with there continuing to be an established church, which is something that the Government has confirmed its commitment to.”
Dr Robert Morris, a constitutional expert from University College London, told the committee that the monarch’s role as Supreme Governor is essentially ceremonial.