THE world turned its gaze on Edinburgh Zoo's pandas yesterday as the creatures' internet show went live.

Fans young and old, students and researchers are all expected to view Edinburgh Zoo's 24-hour "panda-cams", showing video footage of the animals going about their daily business.

By 3.30pm yesterday 15,000 Facebook followers had hit their "like" buttons for the feed.

Loading article content

It is estimated hundreds of thousands of people from all over the world will tune in to watch the panda-cams trained on the Edinburgh bears over the course of the year, a figure that will be bolstered if the couple mate successfully.

After one cub was born in the US, the panda-cam there received 50,000 new hits in a month.

One panda expert said a live panda cub birth would be a huge boost to the viewing figure but the zoo has ruled the move out.

Author of Way Of The Panda Henry Nicholls said: "The zoo has every right to promote the pandas while they are there. Cameras are a useful way of doing so. A live birth would be very popular."

He added: "The cameras are so sophisticated that people will be able to record their general movements and behaviour, and this could be useful. It will allow keepers to establish the animals' patterns and if this changes it can indicate the panda is ill or something is wrong. They could also lead to research being undertaken on who is watching the pandas, where are they from and what are they watching. This could help identify exactly what it is we like about pandas."

Jon-Paul Orsi, zoo cameraman, said: "We were delighted to unveil Yang Guang and Tian Tian live on panda-cam.

"Our panda-cams allow people the world over to gain an extremely rare and fascinating insight into our pandas. At the moment, the best viewing times are between 11am and 3pm.

"If at first you don't see a panda – have a closer look to see if there's one sleeping in a tree or munching bamboo in the corner. We can't guarantee you'll see a panda every time you log on as they are free to roam inside and outside, but that's half the fun."

The male panda, Yang Guang, will be available for all internet users to view on panda-cam, but Tian Tian, the female, is only initially available to members of The Royal Zoological Society of Scotland through a special members-only portal.

A zoo spokesman added: "As and when there are cubs, there won't be cameras in the cubbing den.

"The cubs have to be at least three months old before they can go outside, at which point they will be seen on the panda-cam.

"The zoo will probably take pre-recorded footage of the cubs after they are born which will then be released online."

Footage of the birth of a cub in a semi-wild enclosure in China was posted online in July.

l www.edinburghzoo.org.uk