Panda-ing to the needs of animals

HAS the world gone completely bonkers? I ask the question after spotting a news item on TV.

This showed crowds of happy, cheering people massed on a street. There were thousands of them.

They were obviously pleased as punch about something, but what could it be? There was a police escort and the world’s press was in attendance so perhaps it was a visit by the Pope, or a favourite football team, or a superstar like Lady GaGa.

But no, it was none of those. What was getting them so excited was the arrival in Edinburgh of two giant pandas.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I like pandas as much as the next person but I fail to see what all the high profile fuss was about.

This particular pair had flown from China into the Scottish capital’s airport on a specially chartered plane and were whisked to the city’s zoo in a large lorry (or was it a lorry each?).

Apparently, no one in the crowd could see them and, vice versa, they could not see the fervent Scots but as they chewed on their bamboo leaves they may have wondered for a second or so what all the noise was about.

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But that soon became a memory as the VIPs (Very Important Pandas) settled into their new, custom built, �300,000 home where they will stay for 10 years.

As for the crowds who welcomed them, they won’t get the chance to actually see them for the first time on Scottish soil for a fortnight (the pandas need the time on their own to acclimatise to their new surroundings).

But the black and white arrivals will have to work for it, although no doubt at their own slow pace. The privilege of looking after the pandas will cost Edinburgh Zoo a whopping �700,000 a year and it hopes to recoup some of the outlay from increased attendances by members of the public.

But higher things than money are in the mind of the zoo’s chief executive who explained that this was just the start of a project “which will allow all of us to understand so much more about these fascinating animals.

“We see the pandas as catalysts for research, education and conservation – aimed at improving the future for pandas.”

There are two for whom that has already happened almost instantly.

At the other end of the creature scale, I see that National Insect Week 2012 next summer will have as a theme the London Olympic Games.

According to organisers The Royal Entomological Society, this year’s event was a marvellous success reaching an audience of over 104 million people (which is puzzling as there are only about 60 million of us in the country).

The next special week includes the creation of a “dream team” of Olympic insects including the fastest, highest jumper and best swimmer. No doubt they will be feted as much as the pandas have been in Scotland.

I feel sorry for the ordinary, unsporting creepy crawlies – a top chef will be brought in to create some menus to promote insects as a sustainable food source.

I wonder what arctic roll ants would taste like.