Address: 134 Corstorphine Rd, Corstorphine, Edinburgh EH12 6TS
Edinburgh Zoo is open every day of the year with the exception of Christmas Day. Last entry to the zoo is one hour before closing time. Please note, certain exhibits such as Pandas and Koalas tends to close around 30 minutes before closing.
April - September - 10am - 6pm
October - March - 10am - 5pm
November - February - 10am - 4pm
RZSS member benefits normally include fast track entry through our members gate, located at the top left of the main car park. You must provide a valid membership card to gain access through this gate.
The members gate is normally open from 10am between 1 April – 30 September, and during Edinburgh school holidays and weekends, with the gate closing one hour before the zoo closing time.
There are signs on the entry to the car park to let everyone know of any changes. Please check by the car park barriers before going up the hill. When the gate is closed, please enter through the main admissions building.
Adult (16 yrs+): £21.95 (£24.50 with donation)
Child *(3-15 yrs): £13.95 (£15.50 with donation)
Under 3’s*: free of charge
Concession**: £18.10 (£19.95 with donation)
You can save money by booking tickets in advance at;
* For Health and Safety reasons children aged 15 or under must be accompanied by a responsible person aged 16 or over at all times
* Edinburgh Zoo is located on a hill, so we recommend that visitors wear comfortable footwear
* Some of our indoor enclosures/attractions may open later than the stated opening time and may close 30 minutes prior to the zoo's stated closing time
* Dogs are not permitted into Edinburgh Zoo as they can cause stress to some of our animals. We only permit assistance dogs. See our policy for more details.
* For the safety of other visitors and our animals, we reserve the right to refuse admission to any visitors under the influence of alcohol or drugs
** Eligibility for concessions:
Full time students only with valid student ID featuring a valid expiry date
Young Scot cards
Unemployed person with proof, such as a letter from DSS or a post office card
Senior citizens, aged over 65
Blue badge holders
You can also download copies of the Map and Sensory Map below;
Facilities - These details have been taken from the Zoos Website (06/03/23)
Whatever the weather, it is fun to eat outdoors! We’ve provided lots of benches and picnic areas to allow you to do just that. The two main picnic areas are located at the hilltop and around the main lawn in front of the mansion house.
There are several play areas around the zoo, designed to allow children to have fun in a safe environment. Please ensure that your children are supervised at all times.
We have small number of lockers available for hire each day on a first come first serve basis in our main entrance. The lockers are 40cm x 80cm x 40cm and are suitable for a small wheelie case. Please ask at the front desk for more information about this service. A fee applies for the locker rental, please ask on arrival for pricing and availability.
Having visited our amazing zoo and seen our fantastic animals, end your day with a visit to our gift shop where you will find a wide variety of wild animal themed gifts. Be it giant pandas, king penguins, meerkats or koalas, there is something for everyone (big kids and the younger ones too)! We stock some well-known brands including Lanka Kade, Eugy, Keel Toys and PAPO collectibles.
Our gift shop is open daily and closes half an hour after the zoo. Did you know that you can also visit the shop without visiting the zoo? You are welcome to pop in and shop for that must-have gift.
Free admission for carers
Visitors who require special assistance are offered free admission for one accompanying carer when they pay the full adult/concession/child price.
Please bring relevant proof of entitlement, such as an Access Card with a ‘+1’ symbol, a ‘plus one’ travel card, or a letter from Personal Independence Payment, as this will be asked for on arrival.
A limited number of disabled parking spaces are available in our car park.
Please follow this link for a full list of terms and conditions, including those for parking.
Many of the paths around the zoo can be accessed by wheelchair. Due to the hilly nature of our location, some routes involve steps or steep slopes which are unsuitable for wheelchairs. Please download a copy of our accessibility map, which highlights these areas and may be useful for planning your visit before you arrive.
Our new electric mobility vehicle is up and running with zero emissions – please ask our admission team on arrival for more information.Wheelchairs are also available for hire on a first-come-first-served basis. They must only be used by one visitor a day and will be thoroughly cleaned each evening and morning before hire.
Steep slopes and steps are signposted with alternative routes and there is an updated mobility map available for visitors.
Electric Mobility Scooter Hire
This service is currently unavailable.
A limited number of electric mobility scooters are available for free hire from the main entrance. A £25 deposit is required, which is fully refundable on the return of the electric mobility scooter. These are available on a first-come-first-served basis and are disinfected after each use.
If you require a scooter, we have a mobility scooter map to help you around the zoo.
A limited number of manual wheelchairs are available for free hire from the main entrance. A £10 deposit is required, which is fully refundable on the return of the wheelchair to point of collection. These are available on a first-come-first-served basis and are disinfected after each use.
Sensory bags are designed to provide ways to improve focus and create relaxation with certain demanding cognitive tasks for children with ASD and ADHD. They can, of course, be used by any child who may benefit.
The sensory bags include accessible maps to clearly navigate the zoo, ear defenders to block out noise, sunglasses to dim bright lights, fidget toys to occupy hands and binoculars as a fun way to view our animals.
Bags can be picked up at the admissions area of the zoo, simply speak to an admissions assistant. A £15 deposit is required, which is fully refundable on return of the bag to point of collection.
Only assistance dogs that are accompanying their respective partner are permitted to enter the zoo. If you wish to bring an assistance dog into the zoo, please inform a member of our admissions team when you arrive. Be aware that access may be restricted to certain areas, our assistance dog map will help you navigate the zoo. Dogs in training are not permitted to enter the park.
In addition to the above admission, assistance dogs are subject to the following regulations of BIAZA (British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquaria).
All assistance dogs must be up-to-date with all inoculations
Dogs must be kept on a lead at all times and under strict control
Dogs must not be allowed to defecate anywhere on the zoo grounds and any incidents should be cleared away by their owners
If the behaviour of our animals or your dog is affected, please move away from the area to ensure both their safety and those of our other visitors
Unfortunately, we are unable to allow assistance dogs into any indoor or walkthrough exhibits, or certain outdoor areas. Further information is available on arrival, by clicking here to download a copy of our Assistance Dog Restrictions, or by contacting us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Gannet - Restaurant
With the Grasslands Restaurant currently closed, (no idea if it will reopen) the only choice to have a sit down meal is at the Gannet Restauarant, which is basicially a fish and chips restaurant. Other zoos have also gone this way lately, to name Twycross and South Lakes Safari Zoo but two. For me whilst I understand this can be popular, it's not at all for me. I have a fish allergy and whilst Edinburgh did reassure me that the chips are cooked separately and not in the same oil as the fish, the whole concept of a fish and chips restauarant is off-putting when you have an allergy.
Now don't get me wrong, they do offer Sausages, Chicken Burger, Spicy Burger (another no go with Crohns), Pizza (shows on the app to order, but not on menu) and Chicken Goujons, but I do feel for a Zoo the size of Edinburgh, that even in a quiet period of the year that the limited choice for food is not ideal.
In November when I done the Keeper Experience, I was given lunch in the Gannet and I had a Chicken Burger and Chips, with a drink. Now it was nice I will admit, decent sized portion and filling, but had I purhcased it, I don't think I would have found it value at a cost of £13.10.
I preferred the restauarnt when it was still a Pizza, Italian Restauarant, but I know not everyone will agree with me, which is fine.
You can see the current menu for the Gannet Restauarant below;
Penguins Cafe - Cafe with some seating
By no means as much choice at the Gannet, but if you fancy a bite to eat, which doesn't involve fish and chips, the Penguins cafe which opens at 10.30am daily offers a selection of hot and cold sandwiches, pastries, snacks, homemade cakes and tray bakes, as well as a large selection of hot and cold drinks.
The Penguins cafe is suitable for those who are on the move and want to grab and go with something, or there are a few tables and chairs allowing you to sit down inside. The cafe is very much like the theme of which you would find at a Costa or Starbucks, but at a better value price. I am quite happy to grab a sandwich and can recommend the BLT on a Soardough Roll, whilst the Cheese & Onion Pasty is alos rather tasty. I also enjoy a Hot Chocolate, and the one served up by the cafe is very tasty, although I wasn't keen on the marshmallows.
For me, without an actual nice restauarant with better choice of food to eat which suits my likes, (not chips!) I find myself often getting lunch at the Penguins Cafe.
You can see the current menu for the Penguins Cafe below, although there are a lot more options than this available;
Edinburgh Zoo - Review 01/03/23
There are two types of people who have opinions about Edinburgh Zoo, firstly there are those who have been going for many years who will have seen a decline in a number of the great species they once had, and there are others who have probably only been going for the last 5-7 years and therefore they probably only really know the animals which are currently housed minus a couple of recent losses.
I fall into the latter category having made my first visit to Edinburgh Zoo in 2015, and I first became a member in 2017. For me, the lure of Giant Panda's has always been the main attraction of Edinburgh, so one must raise the question of what will bring in the visitors in 2024? Once the iconic species has departed.
I never saw Snow Leopards, Jaguars, Brown Bears, Amur Leopards, Eurasian Wolves, Black Bears, or Polar Bears at Edinburgh, but even in my time of visiting there has been the loss of Lowland Anoa, Margay, Barbary Sheep, and Malayan Tapir to name just three species I liked to see now departed.
Edinburgh, still has a good range of animals from Giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis rothschildi), Greater One-Horned Rhino (Rhinoceros unicornis), Sumatran Tiger (Panthera tigris sumatrae), Asiatic Lion (Panthera leo persica), Sun Bear (Helarctos malayanus malayanus), King Penguin (Aptenodytes patagonicus), Red Pandas (Ailurus fulgens) and Northern Koala (Phascolarctos cinereus cinereus), as well as some pretty rarely held in the UK animals in that of the Chinese Goral (Naemorhedus griseus arnouxianus), Visayan Spotted Deer (Rusa alfredi), Siberian Musk Deer (Moschus moschiferus), Egyptian Vulture (Neophron percnopterus percnopterus), and Rockhopper Penguins (Eudyptes moseleyi). A reliable source for animals held does name Ground Cuscus (Phalanger gymnotis leucippus) and Palm Civet (Paradoxurus hermaphroditus) in the collection as well, but I must say I can't ever recall seeing these at Edinburgh.
Now the one thing anyone who visits Edinburgh will learn, is that this is one of the stiffest zoos to walk around in the UK and it is very much a workout heading up the hill to the Panda's.
Now there is a more relaxing climb which means heading into the zoo to your left and going past the Red Panda, Pelicans and River Hogs, before a slight uphill walk to the Penguins. At this point you won't have noticed much of a climb, and you can now head up past the Rhino and hang a right by the Warty Pig, Banteng and Visayan Spotted Deer and you will walk on a slight uphill path which leads directly to the Northern Koalas.
I have always found the Koala more active in the mornings, so I always make this my first port of call to try and see them awake, as otherwise you normally just see them as sleeping bits of fluff for much of the day.
From the Koala, you can head past the Wildcat and come out at the bottom of the Carnivore Corridor. When you head up here, the walk is not awful but it will take you past the Lions and the Tigers and out by the elusive Nyala, before you reach the Panda's.
I have found this the best way to make your way to the Panda's without feeling like you are always climbing stiff gradients and it doesn't leave you too tired. Now you can head the last bit up to the Zebra and along to the Giraffe before making your way down the hill to see the animals. I do find it easier and better to start at the top and work your way down, than the constant uphill paths.
I actually think there is plenty to see at the zoo, and whilst it can all be achieved in a day, I do think two days at Edinburgh serves you better, as many of the animals are quite elusive and therefore to get the best from your visit, I find it best to space out what you want to see over two days in order not to miss too much. Now a few of the favourites people like to see are active at different times and its best to note this down; The Pandas are not always seen outside too much, but around 2pm-2.30pm is a good time to see Yang Guang outside as this is roughly when the keeper talk takes place and he often likes to come out for a listen, which gives you the best chance to view him. The Chimpanzees are normally fed enrichment via the Keeper For A Day Scheme around 11.30am before lunch so it's worth baring that in mind, if you want to see them outside, but the inside does offer decent viewing. Sun Bears can be hit and miss, and normally very miss, but they seem to have their enrichment feeds put out in the early afternoon, so this is definitely the best time to catch them. I have noticed when the Lions are on a feed day it's usually done around 1pm, and the Tigers seem to be fed earlier rather than later on feed days. As previously said the Koalas are normally best active in the morning. I find the above helps you get the best from your visit, as there is no point standing at an exhibit at times you are unlikely to see active animals.
There are a number of talks and feed times listed on the boards as you go through the main entrance and it is definitely worth catching the animal antics shows which are often enjoyable. I have been at times where you have got to meet an owl, or another time got to watch a training session with the ground hornbill who was collecting plastic dinosaurs from his exhibit and putting them in a bucket for a reward after the keeper had hidden them in places in his exhibit.The bird shows have been halted because of AI (Bird Flu) but these are also enjoyable when they go ahead.
Despite the Penguin Parade being on hold again because of AI, I do like that you can walk through the middle of the exhibit and see the three species of Penguin up close and this enables good photos without mesh getting in the way.
The zoo is one of only two UK zoos to hold Northern Rockhopper and King Penguins, as well as holding Gentoo Penguins as well.
Edinburgh's signage is also very good, highlighting plenty about each species, conservation projects the zoo are involved in and also how you too can help.
As a photographer, I am always impressed with Edinburgh as exhibits have a mixture of higher levels so you can view without mesh, good clear glass which doesn't affect camera focus and many open view exhibits. Ones with mesh often allow you to get close to the fence, without stand-off barriers miles from the mesh allowing you to get your camera up to the mesh, and I can't think of a single exhibit at Edinburgh I have found taxing for photos, as each exhibit has a combination of open view, mesh, and glass giving you a choice of positioning which is very suitable for a cameraman.
I also don't mind Edinburgh on a damp, rainy day. There are plenty of places to gain shelter if needs be and most animal houses are available to enter, so there is always somewhere to seek cover if needs be.
At £24.50 to visit, I don't think it's overly expensive compared to other big zoos, but with annual membership at £75 or £63.50 when paid by direct debit, you only need to visit 3 times a year to make it pay for yourself and it also saves you 10% in restaurants and in the gift shop.
This price has only just gone up as well, as I am paying less than this a month on direct debit, having been a member for a number of years, and I am currently paying around £4 per month, and when you consider the pass gives you access to the Highland Wildlife Park as well, as well as entry into a number of other zoos in the UK, it is certainly exceptional value for money.
In the summer months the zoo can be busy, but I always find it quite a relaxed zoo without too many visitors and I never have any issues in seeing the animals.
Now there are times where there are queues at the Koalas and Pandas, but this is more of a school holiday problem and I try to avoid going to a big zoo at these times.
I've given my views on the restaurants earlier in the piece, but for me, Edinburgh Zoo is a good value for money day out, and there is plenty to see.
Yes, it would be nice to see a few of the empty areas filled, and replacements for some of the animals now departed, but it is still on the whole a nice collection and I enjoy the keeper talks here and its main attraction for me is the way it is really photographer friendly.
Edinburgh Zoo is a zoo I really enjoy visiting and I always enjoy a day or two at Edinburgh Zoo, and if you haven't been, it's definitely worth a visit.
Edinburgh Zoo - Adult Zookeeper For A Day Experience Review - 16/11/2022
For my 40th Birthday, I took part in a Keeper For A Day Experience at Edinburgh Zoo. It started at 9am and ran until 4pm. The experience costs £260 and it is normally for two people, so if you book a single slot for the experience, you may be joined by someone else on the experience. On the day I did this experience, I was the only person doing it.
You have to wear Wellies on the experience, and a face mask is needed to be worn for most of the encounters.
You do receive 10% off in the gift shop on the day of your experience. You also have two breaks which include a drink and a snack for Breakfast, and then lunch in the Gannet Restaurant. The zoo also gives you a souvenir T-Shirt to remember the experience by. Parking is also free for your day at the zoo and you can also have a locker free of charge as well, although you do have to pay a £5 deposit.
£260 is quite a lot for a Zookeeper Experience and it is certainly one of the more expensives ones in the UK, but when you consider some of the species held at Edinburgh Zoo, you appreciate its price. Also it is worth noting this experience is a shared one, so whilst I was fortunate and done this one to one, the majorty of people would probably share the experience with someone they have never met before, unless booking it as a couple. For £260, I would personally have expected it one to one.
So what's involved in the experience?
I suppose the one question everyone wants to know is, does it involve the Koala or Pandas? Sadly not I'm afraid. If you are booking this experience hoping to see either, you could be left disappointed. These animals were certainly not involved during my experience and having asked other people who have done the experience, no one has ever had these animals involved, so it is definitely worth noting that Panda's and Koala's are not involved in this experience, so do not book the experience thinking you will get close to them as you wont.
There are a range of animals however involved and you will do something with around 8 or 9 animals ranging from Red Panda's, Meekats, Gibbons, Sun Bears, Pygmy Hippos, Chimpanzees, One-Horned Rhino, Giraffe, Wallabies, Kangaroos, Lions, Sumatran Tigers, Penguins (Currently not involved due to AI), Asian Small-Clawed Otters, Armadillos and Sloth.
Now your day will not consist with all of these, but you will work, feed or meet around 8 or 9 of the above mix, so it's fair to say there is a good range of animals involved.
What I done on my experience day:
My experience started at 9am when I met the host at the entrance of Edinburgh Zoo. We headed to the Keeper Experience Cabin and signed a health and safety disclaimer and picked up a number of pairs of gloves and collected by T-Shirt. I was able to leave my rucksack in the cabin and we headed off to meet the first of the animals for the day.
It was a pleasing start as first up was the Sumatran Tigers. It's always nice to feed a Tiger and given most collections charge anything from £100-£200 for this experience, to have it as an opening act for the day was an enjoyable start. We headed to an area double barried and given a pair of tongs, we performed a heathcare check on the male Tiger. Using a pole we would put it by the fence and the Tiger would put his nose to it, at this time, the keeper would click a clicker and then I would offer him a piece of meat. This is standard for an experience as zoos look to move away from just feeds, and incorporate a training exercise in order to make this sort of experience acceptable. It was very enjoyable getting this close to the Tiger and getting to feed him.
After doing the health check feed with the Tiger, it was time to experience a bit of cleaning, another vital role in the life of a Zookeeper. This time it was with the Wallabies and Kangaroos. We picked up our poo picking tools from the night house for these animals and then headed out around the paddock collecting up their droppings. Unsurprisingly we struggled to find much at first and just when we decided to call it time and head back to put the tools away we suddenly found poo upon poo upon poo! The keeper who hosted the experience did help as well, so it wasn't just me and we spent a bit of time observing the Kangaroos and Wallabies, of which there was a Kangaroo Joey who had been born earlier in the year and was now being a bit more independant.
With the Wallabies and Kangaroos cleaned up, we put the tools away, washed our hands and headed to the Penguin Cafe for a short 15 minute break. I had a Hot Chocolate and a piece of Cake, lets just call it my birthday cake.
After we finished the break, we headed past the Otters and Koalas on way to our net animal, and whilst we didn't do anything with them, we did stop by to look at them and take a few photos.
Next up was Chimpanzees, another showcase animal for the Zoo, so for me it was certainly an experience involving some of the bigger animals, even if the big draw animals were not part of the experience. I was told all about the Chimps as filled bottles and firehose with Dates and treats for the Chimps and then we proceeded to go out on to the balcony which doesn't have public access and got to throw the bottles out into the exhibit and watch the Chimps come from all angles searching for their sweet treats. This enrichment feed meant the Chimps had to work for their food and work hard they did. There was some squabling in the group as they argued over bottles, but there was a clear pecking order and much respect between all, as they all got what they could. As the food disappeared some of the group headed back inside, but a few others stayed exploring outside.
It was enjoyable seeing these natural behaviors and it gave more of an understanding of this species of Ape. As we were leaving the exhibit, there was a group of university students from St Andrews University working with a couple of the Chimps showing them a video game, where they had to watch the screen and search for food. It was very interesting seeing this research that the Zoo and university were doing and it started to mean that our day was getting delayed as I seemed maybe a bit too keen to watch the research session going on, although the keeper didn't mind as I was clearly enjoying myself.
Just before we stopped for lunch we had one for animal to meet and that happened to be Meerkats. Now I suppose it wouldn't be a keeper experience without enrichment for Meerkats, but they do nothing for me. We had a pole for them which was filled with mealworms and bugs, as well as some boiled eggs which we hid in some enrichment and with the remainder we threw it into the exhibit as a scatter feed. The Meerkats enjoyed searching for the food, pulling bits of paper out of the items and getting their mealworms as well as collecting bits of boiled egg up that we had threw around their exhibit.
With the Meerkats fed, it was now lunch time for us and time for us to be fed. We broke at 1.15pm and I was told to meet the keeper back at 2.15pm outside our next animal.
I had lunch at the Gannet Restaurant, where I had a can of Coke, as well as a Chicken Burger and Chips. It was quite enjoyable and there was not a long wait, so this then gave me 30 minutes to try and see some other animals I may not see during the day. I ate as quick as I could and headed up to the Giant Panda's to try and see them.
I got lucky being able to see Tian Tian eating outside and after 20 minutes, I headed back towards the centre of the Zoo to meet the next animal.
When I got to the Indian One-Horned Rhino house at 2.15pm, the keeper was already there and was armed with a big bucket on spring greens and cabbage, and we headed into the house to meet the pair of Rhinos.
I don't mind saying this, but this was actually my most enjoyable part of the day, and I really like Rhinos. For animals that should be all big and tough, the majority are like big pussy cats and extremely friendly. I happily got to feed the greens and then browse to both the Rhino's, before being able to give one a stroke, and as it stood side on, feel underneath its creases and also get to feel its prehensile lip. Rhino's really are the gentle giants of the natural world and I never get tired of meeting one, and feeding one, and of course, getting to give one a stroke. Again Rhino experiences are normally anything from £60-150, so to have this as part of the day, showed that the experience was worth the higher end fee it charged.
I was having a very enjoyable day and after the Rhino's I got to meet one of my favourite animals there is, the Red Panda.
The experience with the Panda's was to basically collect some browse and put it out in their exhibit. There was no hand feeding of them, and there was a chance they wouldn't come down to see us, but maybe they knew it was my birthday, as they came down from the trees to say hi and I was able to see them up close. We watched them eating their browse briefly and took a couple of photos, before we left them be and headed to our next animal.
Time was moving on and we were certainly getting towards the final hour, as we went to see the Buff-Cheeked Gibbons. Being a category one animal, we couldn't go in with them but with them locked outside, we put their evening food in their exhibit and once we were out of the way, we let them back in and watched them settle down for the evening and have their dinner.
The Panda and Gibbons were rather short experiences used to make up the day, but we had around an hour left for our final animals of the day.
On way to these animals, we stopped to look at the Pygmy Hippos and also the Sun Bears who had just had food put outside for them, so the keeper was happy to stop and let me take some photos which I appreciated.
It was now time to head into our final exhibit and with the building closed to the public for the day, we headed in to meet the Three-Banded Armadillo, Large Hairy Armadillo & The Two Toed Sloth. It was a nice way to end the day, as I got introduced to a number of the Armadillos, and we made their evening feeds for them, and done a welfare check with them, before putting out their evening food in terms of enrichment for them.
I was able to get close to the Three-Banded and get some nice photos as well as then setting up the Puzzle Feeder for the Large Hairy Armadillo and getting down to their level in the exhibit to take some photos of them using it up close. I really enjoyed this encounter getting to know the Armadillos and it meant the day was winding down nicely.
The day ended with a training session with the Two-Toed Sloth, and armed with her favourite treats, we used a target stick and got her to reach different levels before rewarding her with a bit of pear, sweet potato or parsnip. Any of the other treats wouldn't have interested her in the slightest and once we had run out of the "good stuff" she decided it was not worth venturing out of her box for, so we placed the remainder of her food around her exhibit and that was it. I thought I would upload a small video below of the training session, so you can get a feel with what a safe experience with a sloth is like.
This brought the experience to an end and we headed back to the Experience Cabin, washed our hands and grabbed our belongings before heading to the exit.
If you done this experience in the summer, you would still have some time to explore the Zoo, but doing it in November meant that with the zoo closing at 4pm that it was time to leave.
I must admit, that at £260 it is one of the more pricier Keeper Experiences, but when you break it down to the price of Experiences, I don't think it's bad value for money and I enjoyed it. I enjoyed the Rhino's, Tiger, Armadillos and Chimps the most and I think experiences alone with these animals would cost in excess of £300, so I am happy to say it is value for money. I did get to do the experience myself so maybe I was a bit lucky to take it at my pace and therefore got to spend a little longer at certain places than if there was two people on the experience and I did enjoy the day and the mix of animals involved.
I will concede that there are better value for money Keeper experiences out there, but as far as one with a good mix of animals at a big zoo, I would say it was good value, worth doing and would make a fantastic present for an animal lover, although it is not an experience I would plan on doing again, unless I was able to ensure I could do it with a different set of animals than I did before.
Edinburgh Zoo - Giant Panda Magic Moment Review - 01/03/2023
It should be noted that this was a limited edition experience offered by Edinburgh Zoo with only 100 experiences being put on sale over 50 days between February and July.
There is a chance more will be added once the Zoo know the exact departing date of the Giant Pandas Yang Guang and Tian Tian, but at present this is a sold out service and is not available to book.
The experience cost £500 for one person, and takes place at 9.30am until around 10am, although my own experience lasted until just before 10.20am, which means I may have got longer than some other people on this experience.
In order to take part in this experience you had to be a member of Edinburgh Zoo, a Patron, or someone who had Sponsored the Giant Pandas at Edinburgh Zoo.
Now for many people, it is fair to say that £500 for what is effectively a 30 minute experience is not value for money, and I do get that and in many ways I would agree, but I would however say that these are the only Giant Panda's in the UK, and this was very much a limited edition experience with only 100 places, so as a once in a lifetime opportunity, I don't think it's too fair to say whether something is value or not, as it's unlikely I will have the chance to get close and feed a Giant Panda again in my life.
We met a host at the entrance of Edinburgh Zoo at 9.15am, and we were walked to the Giant Panda house to start our experience at 9.30am. Again like with the Keeper Experience, Wellington Boots had to be worn and we had to wear a face mask at all times.
Again this is an experience for two people, so unless you booked both places at £1000, you would be sharing the experience. This was the case for me as I was joined by another visitor called Simon for the experience. Simon knew way more about Giant Panda's than me, having been to China and seen them in the wild and helped at sanctuaries who have them out in China.
At 9.30am, we were met by Alison McClean (Head of Carnivores at Edinburgh Zoo) and Kirsty who works with the Giant Panda's at the Zoo. We were given a brief tour of the animal kitchen and told the do's and don'ts before we headed back into the Panda house to meet Yang Guang.
I had always thought Giant Panda's were quite large, but I was rather taken aback at that Yang Guang didn't actually look that big at all. It may be the way he say against the bars of his pen eating his Bamboo, but he looked very chilled and not really the impressive large specimen I was expecting.
We observed Yang Guang eating away, as Kirsty and Alison answered questions about him, and it was really nice just observing him eat, how he stripped the Bamboo and crunched on it, using a part of his teeth to strip back the sort of outer sleeve and then munched on the inners of the Bamboo.
After around 10 minutes, Yang Guang had, had enough of his Bamboo, and decided to have a large drink of water, whilst going to toilet at the same time! Quite a sight I can tell you!
We had now got the attention of Yang Guang, and if not us, it was definitely the plate of thinly sliced Carrot that Alison was holding.
Alison got Yang Guang then to put his paws on top of a bar and showed us how she wanted us to feed him, whilst showing us a couple of the healthcare techniques they done with him.
I allowed Simon to go first, as he seemed Panda mad, and I didn't want to rush my go, instead taking some videos and photos of Yang Guang up close.
We took it in turns and then I got to use the tongs and feed him. He was so gentle, taking the carrot within his lips and looking at us with those teddy bear eyes as he ate away on his carrot. On a couple of occasions he even used his paw to position the carrot where he wanted to in his mouth and a few times he would even close his eyes as he ate his carrot showing just how much he was enjoying it.
Feeding him was such a surreal experience, he was so gentle, and patient and it was quite some feeling being that close to probably one of natures most iconic, if not the most iconic animal in the animal kingdom.
We done half of our carrot each, before swapping places again and we spent a good 15/20 minutes feeding Yang Guang until all the carrot was gone. It was nice taking our time with the experience and not just rush feeding as it enabled us to ask plenty of questions and spend plenty of time with such an amazing animal.
I have to say I didn't know just how much I would enjoy this experience, with it always in the back of my mind that I had paid £500 for it, but truth be told, I absolutely loved it and I was in awe of being so close to an amazing animal.
With all the food now gone, Yang Guang took himself to his on-show exhibit for the day and the keepers shut off the door to his bedroom, so they could clean and also so he couldn't just disappear from the public for the day!
We returned to the animal kitchen, removed our gloves, dipped our feet again, and washed our hands before heading out to the front of the Panda exhibit and viewed him tucking into more Bamboo in his on-show bedroom with his back to the public (nothing new there!). At this point Kirsty went off and got on with cleaning duties.
Alison now spent the best part of 20 minutes chatting to myself and Simon all about the Panda's, how she went over to work with Yang Guang before he even came to Edinburgh, all the details of how they train the Panda's for healthchecks, including the way they put their arm into a sleeve and she would hold Yang Guang's paw when they drew blood. She said how he would hold this bar and she would be able to say when tension changed and whether to continue or not. She spoke of how it was harder to do things with Tian Tian as she was less predictable and that she had to have her hand fully in this sling attached to the bar, as if she got the chance, she would probably grab your hand and chew your fingers off! A image that was now going through my mind, having only been a foot away from a Panda's mouth only minutes before.
We spoke about possible furture plans for the area and how bosses had mentioned moving the Sun Bears up there, but Alison's experiened mind told them how it would not be suitable as it's too open. She also said how Sloth Bears would escape in seconds, before saying she would love Edinburgh to get in touch with "Save The Bears" and get some Asiatic Black Bear for the exhibit in the future. This of course was just chat and opinions and discussions and no decisions have been made for the future of the exhibit, but it's clear Anne would love to have another Bear species at the park in the future.
One of the final things we spoke about was when they discovered that Yang Guang had cancer in his testicles and whilst it was believed it was only in one when they first noticed it, vet checks found evidence it was in both. There was back and fourth calls with China who have the say on what happens and reluctantly it was decided that to save his own life, he would need to be fully castrated. Hearing Alison describe the events of this treatment was fascinating, interesting and also making me feel a little bit queezy between the legs! But the level of detail and care shown by Alison in looking after this iconic species was clear and it was clear of also the disappointment there had been by failure to breed.
No one knows the true reasons as to why the Panda's never successfully had offspring at Edinburgh, but Alison felt that it clearly wasn't anything wrong with either Panda, as Tian Tian had concieved to Yang Guang and again to artificial insemination, but for whatever reason she had failed to go full course of pregnancy. Alison believes it is down to the lighting of natural sun light in the Uk and that our days get darker very quickly, whilst in countries where they have bred well, the drop in time in daylight hours isn't as rapid as it is in the UK. If that is the case, it does raise the question of whether it would be suitable to have Panda's here again in the UK, which is a little sad, but animals should always be on show for animal reasons and not human reasons, so I would suggest it is highly likely that at the end of 2023, the curtain will go down on the UK holding Giant Panda's again.
Alison was so passionate about the species, and taught me so much about them. I gathered Simon knew a lot more than I ever would, and maybe the questions I was asking Alison he already knew the answers to, but it truly was such an informative and knowledge gaining experience.
Alison told us that Panda's have such a complex digestive system that they can only have the equivilent of 1 and a half carrots a day and it has to be peeled and thinly stripped like we gave it to Yang Guang earlier. When severe vet treatment has to be given, like drawing blood, a carrot wont do, so the procedure leads to them getting a bit of apple instead of carrot. Alison told us all about how they had to train them with blunt needles and how it had been a pleasure for Alison to work with this species for the best part of the last 12 years.
It truly was a remarkable experience and very much a once in a lifetime for me. Alison was an amazing host, and kirsty was helpful as well, and happy to take photos and videos for both myself and Simon. Getting so close to one of the worlds most iconic animals and learning so much about them was an amazing experience for me, and whilst it's very hard to say whether it was worth £500 or not, I am so glad I got to do it before they leave the UK to go into retirement back out in China, where the Chinese Government like to have all Panda's see out their lives.
I feel very honoured and privileged to have got to do this experience. It truly was a once in a lifetime experience.
I have added a video below of the experience of feeding a Giant Panda, so you can get a close up view of this iconic animal yourself.
Species Held (As of 06/03/23)
Antarctic gentoo penguin* (Pygoscelis papua ellsworthi*)
Anthonys poison-arrow frog (misid.: Phantasmal Poison Frog) (Epipedobates anthonyi (misid.: Epipedobates tricolor))
Argentine black and white tegu (Salvator merianae (Syn.: Tupinambis merianae))
Asian small-clawed otter (Oriental small-clawed otter) (Aonyx cinerea (Syn.: Amblyonyx cinereus))
Asiatic lion (Indian lion) (Panthera leo persica (Syn.: Panthera leo goojratensis))
Atlantic mudskipper (Periophthalmus barbarus (Syn.: Periophthalmus papilio) (Syn.: Periophthalmus koelreuteri))
Australian green tree frog (Ranoidea caerulea (Syn.: Litoria caerulea) (Syn.: Pelodryas caerulea))
Axolotl (Ambystoma mexicanum)
Azara's agouti (Dasyprocta azarae)
Baer’s pochard (Bear’s white-eye duck) (Aythya baeri)
Bagot goat* (Capra aegagrus f. hircus*)
Banded archerfish (Toxotes jaculatrix (Syn.: Toxotes jaculator))
Binturong (Bear-cat) (No Subspecific status) (Arctictis binturong)
Black-capped capuchin (Guianan brown capuchin) (no subspecies-status) (Sapajus apella (Syn.: Cebus apella))
Black-faced kangoroo (Mainland Western grey kangoroo)* (Macropus fuliginosus melanops*)
Blackfinned Clownfish (Amphiprion percula)
Blue poison dart frog (Dendrobates tinctorius var. "Azureus" (Syn.: Dendrobates azureus))
Blue-and-yellow macaw (Blue-and-gold macaw) (Ara ararauna)
Blue-crowned laughingthrush (Pterorhinus courtoisi (Syn.: Dryonastes courtoisi) (Syn.: Garrulax galbanus courtoisi))
California kingsnake (Lampropeltis getula californiae (Syn.: Lampropeltis californiae))
Callimico (Goeldi's monkey) (Goeldi's marmoset) (Callimico goeldii)
Cape porcupine (Southern African porcupine) (Hystrix africaeaustralis)
Central Chinese goral (Naemorhedus griseus arnouxianus (Syn.: Naemorhedus caudatus arnouxianus))
Chestnut-backed ground-thrush (Geokichla dohertyi (Syn.: Zoothera dohertyi))
Chilean flamingo (Phoenicopterus chilensis)
Common Barn Owl (No Subspecific status) (Tyto alba)
Common black kite (Milvus migrans migrans)
Common blue-tongued skink (no subspecific status) (Tiliqua scincoides)
Common carp (Cyprinus carpio (Syn.: Cyprinus carpio carpio) (Syn.: Cyprinus hungaricus))
Common chimpanzee (No Subspecific status) (Pan troglodytes)
Common palm civet (Toddy cat) (Asian palm civet) (no subspecific status)* (Paradoxurus hermaphroditus*)
Common squirrel monkey (South American squirrel monkey) (Saimiri sciureus)
Corn snake (Eastern corn snake) (Pantherophis guttatus (Syn.: Elaphe guttata))
Cotton-top tamarin (White-plumed tamarin) (Pinche) (Saguinus oedipus (Syn.: Oedipomidas oedipus) (Syn.: Saguinus oedipus oedipus))
Crowned lemur (Eulemur coronatus (Syn.: Lemur mongoz coronatus))
Domestic goat (Capra aegagrus f. hircus)
Drill (Mandrillus leucophaeus)
Eastern grey-crowned crane (East African crowned crane) (Balearica regulorum gibbericeps (Syn.: Balearica pavonina gibbericeps))
Eastern pygmy marmoset (Cebuella pygmaea niveiventris (Syn.: Callithrix pygmaea niveiventris))
Egyptian tortoise (Testudo kleinmanni (Syn.: Pseudotestudo kleinmanni))
Emei Shan liocichla (Mount Omei liocichla) (Grey-cheeked liocichla) (Liocichla omeiensis)
Eurasian Great Grey Owl (Strix nebulosa lapponica)
Eurasian tawny owl (No Subspecific status) (Strix aluco)
Gelada (Gelada baboon) (No Subspecific status) (Theropithecus gelada)
Giant anteater (Myrmecophaga tridactyla)
Giant panda (Great panda) (Bamboo bear) (Ailuropoda melanoleuca)
Great white pelican (Eastern white pelican) (Rosy pelican) (Pelecanus onocrotalus (Syn.: Pelecanus roseus) (Syn.: Pelecanus mitratus))
Greater One-horned rhinoceros (Indian rhinoceros) (Greater one-horned rhino) (Rhinoceros unicornis)
Grevy's zebra (Equus grevyi)
Grey-handed Night Monkey (Grey-legged Night Monkey) (Aotus lemurinus griseimembra (Syn.: Aotus griseimembra) (Syn.: A. trivirgatus griseimembra) )
Henkel's leaf-tailed gecko (Uroplatus henkeli)
Himalayan monal (Impeyan monal) (Himalayan monal-pheasant) (Lophophorus impejanus)
Japanese koi carp (Cyprinus carpio f. domestica)
Javan banteng (Bos javanicus javanicus)
King penguin (Aptenodytes patagonicus)
Kirk's dik-dik (no subspecies-status) (Madoqua kirkii (Syn.: Madoqua kirki))
L'Hoest's monkey (East Congo l’Hoest’s monkey) (Mountain guenon)* (Allochrocebus lhoesti (Syn.: Cercopithecus lhoesti)*)
Large hairy armadillo (Big hairy armadillo) (Chaetophractus villosus)
Linnaeus' two-toed sloth (Southern two-toed sloth) (Choloepus didactylus)
Maiden goby (Valenciennea puellaris)
Meerkat (Suricata suricatta)
Mindanao bleeding-heart (Bartlett’s bleeding-heart) (Gallicolumba crinigera (Syn.: Gallicolumba criniger))
Negros warty pig (Visayan warty pig) (Sus cebifrons negrinus)
Nelson's kingsnake (Nelson's milksnake)* (Lampropeltis triangulum nelsoni*)
Nepalese red panda (Himalayan red panda) (Ailurus fulgens (Syn.: Ailurus fulgens fulgens))
New Guinea ground cuscus* (Phalanger gymnotis leucippus (Syn.: Strigocuscus gymnotis leucippus)*)
Northern bald ibis (Waldrapp) (Geronticus eremita)
Northern koala (Queensland koala) (New South Wales Koala) (Phascolarctos cinereus cinereus (Syn.: Phascolarctos cinereus adustus))
Northern Luzon giant cloud rat (Phloeomys pallidus)
Northern rockhopper penguin (Tristan penguin) (Eudyptes moseleyi (Syn.: Eudyptes chrysocome moseleyi))
Northern white-faced scops-owl (Ptilopsis leucotis (Syn.: Otus leucotis))
Nyala (Tragelaphus angasii (Syn.: Nyala angasii))
Orangespot surgeonfish (Acanthurus olivaceus)
Pancake tortoise (Malacochersus tornieri)
Pied Imperial-Pigeon (Ducula bicolor)
Przewalski's horse (Asian wild horse) (Equus ferus przewalskii (Syn.: Equus przewalskii))
Rainbow lorikeet (Swainson's lorikeet) (Swainson's blue mountain lorikeet) (Trichoglossus moluccanus (Syn.: Trichoglossus haematodus moluccanus))
Red River hog (Potamochoerus porcus (Syn.: Potamochoerus porcus porcus) (Syn.: Potamochoerus porcus pictus))
Red-bellied lemur (Eulemur rubriventer)
Red-cheeked gibbon (Southern Yellow-cheeked crested gibbon) (Golden-cheeked gibbon) (Nomascus gabriellae (Syn.: Hylobates concolor gabriellae))
Red-fronted macaw (Ara rubrogenys)
Red-whiskered bulbul (No Subspecific status) (Pycnonotus jocosus)
Ring-tailed lemur (Lemur catta)
Rock eagle-owl (Indian eagle-owl) (Bubo bengalensis (Syn.: Bubo bubo bengalensis))
Rothschild's giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis rothschildi)
Royal python (Ball python) (Python regius)
Scarlet kingsnake (No Subspecific status) (Lampropeltis triangulum)
Scottish wildcat* (Felis silvestris grampia*)
Socorro dove (Grayson's dove) (Zenaida graysoni (Syn.: Zenaida macroura graysoni))
Southern cassowary (Double-wattled cassowary) (Two-wattled cassowary) (Casuarius casuarius)
Southern ground hornbill (Bucorvus leadbeateri (Syn.: Bucorvus cafer))
Southern pudu (Pudu puda (Syn.: Pudu pudu))
Southern three-banded armadillo (Tolypeutes matacus)
Springer's demoiselle (Chrysiptera springeri)
Striated caracara (Forster's caracara) (Phalcoboenus australis)
Subantarctic gentoo penguin (Pygoscelis papua papua)
Sumatran tiger (Panthera tigris sumatrae (Syn.: Panthera sumatrae))
Sun bear (Nominate subspecies) (Helarctos malayanus malayanus)
Swamp wallaby (Black wallaby) (Black-tailed wallaby) (Wallabia bicolor (Syn.: Macropus bicolor))
Taiga musk deer (Siberian musk deer) (Moschus moschiferus)
Taiwan beauty snake (Elaphe taeniura friesi (Syn.: Orthriophis taeniurus friesei))
Turkey vulture (No Subspecific status) (Cathartes aura)
Visayan spotted deer (Philippine spotted deer) (Rusa alfredi (Syn.: Cervus alfredi))
Vulturine guineafowl (Acryllium vulturinum)
West African pygmy goat (African dwarf goat) (Cameroon dwarf goat) (Capra aegagrus f. hircus)
Western common chimpanzee (True chimpanzee) (Pan troglodytes verus (Syn.: Pan verus))
Western Egyptian vulture (Neophron percnopterus percnopterus)
Western pygmy hippopotamus (Choeropsis liberiensis liberiensis (Syn.: Hexaprotodon liberiensis liberiensis))
White-naped pheasant-pigeon (White-necked pheasant-pigeon) (Otidiphaps aruensis (Syn.: Otidiphaps nobilis aruensis))
White-winged duck (White-winged wood duck) (Asarcornis scutulata (Syn.: Cairina scutulata))
Yellow-breasted capuchin (Buffy-headed tufted capuchin) (Weeping capuchin) (Sapajus xanthosternos (Syn.: Cebus xanthosternos) (Syn.: Cebus apella xanthosternos))
Last Updated: 06/03/23