Giant pandas bring in the crowds at Edinburgh Zoo

The giant panda’s presence at Edinburgh Zoo has increased visitors by 200 per cent. Tourist numbers at the Scottish attraction have increased massively, and its all thanks to two very cute pandas.

The pandas named Tian Tian and Yang Guang, have had around 70,000 visitors since they arrived in December. Increasing visitor numbers three fold compared with the same time last year.

Yang Guang, the male, who is also known as Sunshine, has been exploring his new home and spending hours in full view of the zoo’s keepers.

Tian Tian (Sweetie) has been more reserved and shy, hiding from the public much of the time.

Since the pandas arrival, the zoo has seen a huge increase in sales of panda toys, costing as much as £40.

Edinburgh Zoo chief executive Hugh Roberts said: ‘We’ve been fully booked almost every day so far and expect the popularity of Tian Tian and Yang Guang to continue. Visitors’ faces have been amazing, both young and old. For the vast majority of people this is the first chance they’ve had in their lifetime to cast their eyes on a giant panda.’

Time slots are needed to visit the pandas as they are in such high demand, but visitors are not charged any extra.

Mr Roberts added: ‘As well as being incredibly endangered and rarely seen outside China, they are an extremely cute and anthropomorphic (showing characteristics identified with humans) animal.

‘People are often amazed to see for themselves that pandas are quite happy to make eye contact and our visitors can learn lots of interesting facts from our panda patrols, like pandas eat a third of their bodyweight in food every day and the male pandas do their own version of a handstand to scent mark their territory.’

The pandas arrived in Edinburgh from Ya’an reserve in Chengdu, China on December 4.

Once they had become accustomed to their new home, they went on show to the public on December 16.

Edinburgh Zoo will be the animals’ home for the next 10 years, and it is hoped during this time the pair will have cubs. They are the first breeding pair in the UK for 17 years.


Find out how to train your dinosaur in Santa Barbara

Summer visitors to the Santa Barbara Zoo are delighted with its newest resident: a life-sized, adolescent Tyrannosaurus Rex that runs, roars, snorts, blinks, growls and even poops in the show “How to Train Your Dinosaur” running three times daily.

Fifteen-feet from nose-to-tail and 7-feet tall, this amazingly lifelike dinosaur, named “Duncan,” was designed by the Chiodo Brothers, one of Hollywood’s top creature shops (“Dinner for Schmucks,” “Elf,” “Gremlins.”).

During the family-friendly 15-minute lively show, the human hosts introduce Duncan and attempt to demonstrate the special care received by the Zoo’s animals – with hilarious results. Just as keepers have trained the Zoo’s gorillas to allow their teeth to be brushed, Duncan is given a chance to improve his oral hygiene. But it’s going to take a lot of patience and positive reinforcement, just like with pets at home and the Zoo’s animals, before he is trained.

“Duncan is a perfect example of the evolution of an idea,” said Zoo CEO Rich Block. “We wanted to give our guests a behind-the-scenes look at the ways we work with our animals, but in a fresh and focused way. We can’t bring the gorillas out every day and show their teeth getting brushed, but we can show Duncan getting the same positive reinforcement we use with the gorillas and other animals here at the Zoo. The fun part is – he learns anew every show, as does the audience.”

“Anytime we can make a dinosaur, we’re happy,” says Edward Chiodo. “We love dinosaurs, and learn something every time we make one. This time, we learned more about weight distribution through the way we had to counterbalance the tail to allow for the head movements.” Duncan’s designer is Dave Barrington Holt, former Creative Supervisor of Jim Henson’s Creature Shop.

Duncan’s operator wears the backpack and has full control of the T. Rex’s actions, including his head and jaw, and tail movements. Eye blinks are run by a computer program, and he poops from a preloaded cylinder controlled by the operator. The operator sees ahead via images from a pinhole video camera located in the tip of Duncan’s nose. The operator also wears a headset that allows him to make sounds through a voice synthesizer.  Duncan is sponsored by the Duncan Family.