Architect of Scotland's giant panda program quits as director at Edinbugh Zoo

Updated 2018-03-14 09:45:05 Xinhua

The Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS) confirmed Tuesday that the director at Edinburgh Zoo responsible for leading its panda breeding program has quit his job.

RZSS said in a brief statement that Iain Valentine, the zoo's director of animals, conservation and education, has moved on from the society to pursue new interests.

"Iain played a key role in the society's contribution to the worldwide panda conservation program over many years, including research and science," a spokeswoman at the zoo said.

Confirmation of Valentine's departure came after RZSS announced that Edinburgh Zoo has suspended its giant panda breeding program for at least a year.

In its statement the zoo said: "We will not attempt to breed our giant pandas this year because we want to further assess the incredibly complex and unpredictable breeding process.

"This pause, which is supported by our giant panda team and other key specialists, will allow us further time to consider the scientific data, our own experiences and those of colleagues around the world, including the latest thinking on giant panda accommodation."

A zoo spokesperson said it was hoped Tian Tian will have a cub in the future, adding: "and we will be thrilled if this happens".

"Even without breeding success as yet, RZSS is playing a crucial role in safeguarding this magnificent species by helping fund conservation projects in China alongside international partners. These projects are critical, with fewer than two thousand giant pandas in the wild," said the zoo's statement.

In the meantime the zoo said the pause will also enable some enhancements to be made to the giant panda enclosure which would not have been practical either during or between breeding seasons.

The Guardian newspaper quoted one source Tuesday saying Valentine had complained that military jets taking part in the Edinburgh's military tattoo would fly over the zoo during August, at a crucial moment in the panda's pregnancy, just as she was close to birth.

The newspaper described Valentine's resignation as a blow to the zoo.

"He had been the architect of the RZSS decision to bid for a breeding pair of giant pandas, first proposing it in 2008," said the newspaper's report.

Tian Tian and her mate Yang Guang arrived at Edinburgh Zoo in December 2011 on a 10-year loan. Despite a few hopeful signs that Tian Tian would produce an offspring in Scotland, there has so far been no cubs.

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