Visiting the Edinburgh Zoo has been on my UK bucket list for as long as I can remember, for one specific reason: the pandas. I absolutely love pandas. Always have, always will. My parents called me Manda Panda when I was little. My Dad still calls me “Bear” for the same reason. (Plus I was chubby like a bear cub but that’s a different story.)
And despite my mounting excitement to see these beautiful creatures, in the back of my mind I felt like a hypocrite. You see, I have very mixed feelings about zoos. I think it’s fantastic that people get exposed to seeing animals that they might never get a chance to otherwise. And I think the more that you are exposed to nature the more you care about it. Great zoos do have positive points; some play essential roles in conservation projects and breeding programs.
However, I hate seeing animals in cages and enclosures that are much too small for them, or in environments that they aren’t suited to in the slightest. So it was with some trepidation that I prioritised going to the zoo.
Edinburgh Zoo was much bigger than I expected. Sam and I had only set aside about 2 hours to be at the zoo, but you could easily spend 3 +, to all day there. You should be warned that the zoo is very hilly and towards the top end of the zoo, the walk is very steep and some people might struggle with it.
But on to the reason why I was there: the pandas. First and foremost, seeing the pandas doesn’t cost any additional money but you must book in advance for a time slot to see them. And even then it’s not guaranteed that you will see them. If one of the pandas wants to go inside and play, then you’re out of luck and no pandas for you. I was on pins and needles waiting, hoping against hope that the pandas would show their heads. You are advised to start queuing about 15 minutes before your pre-booked time slot and once we were let it, the beautiful Yang Guang was out playing. (Tian Tian, the female, remained inside and I never glimpsed her.) You only get to spend 15 minutes within the panda enclosure, but it’s worth every minute. Zookeepers also ask you to be as quiet as possible and to not use any flash on your cameras so that you don’t disturb the pandas. I’m not going to lie: Yang Guang was so beautiful in person that I cried. (Not full weeping, but definitely a tear or two.)
For the most part, I think Edinburgh zoo was taking great lengths to make sure that all the animals had as much space as possible. The one exception seemed to be the chimpanzees. They didn’t seem to have enough space, and if any animal looked sad to be there, it was them.
Edinburgh Zoo is located at 134 Corstorphine Rd, Edinburgh EH12 6TS
How do you feel about zoos?