ANIMAL lovers have just two more weeks to catch a glimpse of the UK’s only giant pandas as the Edinburgh Zoo's beloved Yang Guang and Tian Tian prepare to return to China.

From Thursday, November 30, the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS) will restrict access to the pair as officials get them ready for the trip back to Asia in early December.

Yang Guang and Tian Tian arrived in Scotland in December 2011 as part of a 10-year agreement between RZSS and the China Wildlife Conservation Association, which was later extended by two years.

Giant pandas generally live between 15 and 20 years.

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Despite efforts to breed the two pandas, female Tian Tian, whose name means Sweetie, has not produced a cub during her time with Yang Guang (Sunshine) in Edinburgh.

David Field, RZSS chief executive, said: “With more than a million species at risk of extinction and our natural world in crisis, Yang Guang and Tian Tian have had an incredible impact by inspiring millions of people to care about nature.

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“That added interest in the pandas’ departure this year has allowed us to connect many more people with the conservation causes that RZSS is actively involved with, and with nature more generally.

“Through scientific research by our expert veterinary and keeper teams, working alongside the University of Edinburgh, we have made a significant contribution to our understanding around giant panda fertility, husbandry, and veterinary care – which has been of real benefit to efforts to protect this amazing species in China.

“It is encouraging that in recent years the outlook for giant pandas in the wild has improved, which gives real hope for the future."

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