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Protect pandas' habitat

At some point in the next few days, the one millionth visitor is expected at the panda enclosure at Edinburgh Zoo.

By any measure, that is a remarkable figure, especially as the giant pandas have only been at the zoo for two years. It also means more income for the zoo, and a way for its owners to recoup the multi-million-pound cost of hosting the pandas.

As it unveiled the visitor numbers at the weekend, the owners of the zoo said they proved the pandas had captured the hearts of people in the UK. They also emphasised the panda's status as a flagship species that can teach visitors about conservation.

Certainly, the animal's role in conservation, as well as the business of zoos, should not be dismissed - 90% of the fee the zoo pays to China, for example, goes directly to conservation projects in the wild.

However, there is also a danger of exaggerating the role that Yang Guang and Tian Tian (and their possible baby) can play in conservation. A million people may have delighted in them, but the panda's plight will not be solved in Edinburgh. It will be solved thousands of miles away by putting an end to the destruction of their habitat.

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