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Softly softly, panda squad

WHAT do giant pandas have in common with penguins?

Well, they are both undeniably cute. They are both mainly black and white. They are both flightless. And they are both hugely popular attractions at Edinburgh Zoo, where they are now under the protection of an informal no-fly zone.

The zoo management has asked the Civil Aviation Authority to issue a Notice to Airmen, known to pilots as a Notam, partly in consideration of its breeding penguin colony, but also out of fears that the noise from low-flying planes and helicopters could cause Scotland's pregnant panda to lose her cub. It is hoped that Tian Tian, who was artificially inseminated in April, will give birth at the end of this month.

It is right that caution should be the watchword - as a member of such a popular but endangered species, Tian Tian's pregnancy is being monitored across the globe, and the safe arrival of a new cub would be a cause for great celebration.

Police Scotland is among the bodies that has been made aware of the notice, and has taken it into account when flying its helicopter in the area. Happily, we can report that no restric­tion has been placed on panda cars.

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