The UK’s only giant pandas have set off for China after leaving Edinburgh Zoo.
Tian Tian and Yang Guang departed the capital’s airport for Chengdu at about 13:40 on Monday.
The animals were loaded aboard a Boeing 777 China Southern cargo plane in specially-built crates for the 13-hour flight.
It brings their 12-year loan to Scotland to an end after a breeding programme failed to produce a cub.
Royal Zoological Society Scotland (RZSS) chief executive David Field said it was a sad day for staff and visitors alike.
He said: “They were all feeling that emotion as they were literally waving them goodbye this morning.
“It’s hard. These animals have been huge parts of their lives for the last 12 years.
“It’s sad not just for our keepers, but our members, our visitors and all those people who have watched them on pandacam.”
The pair jetted off alongside a keeper from Edinburgh Zoo, an RZSS vet and a Chinese representative.
Two bespoke metal boxes, with sliding padlock doors, pee trays and removable screens – so keepers can check on them during the flight – were built by the zoo’s blacksmith to transport the animals.
A paperwork issue briefly delayed their boarding on the tarmac before the crates were hoisted onto the aircraft.
A supply of bamboo was also loaded onboard to keep them fed during the long journey.
Source : BBC