Pandas Yang Guang and Tian Tian will return to China this year

Ever since their Panda Express cargo plane landed in 2011, Yang Guang and Tian Tian have been enchanting visitors at Edinburgh Zoo.

But now the UK's only giant pandas – also known as Sunshine and Sweetie – will return to China in early December.

Zoo chiefs said that over nearly 12 years in Scotland, the pair 'have had an incredible impact by inspiring millions of people to care about nature'.

Visitors will still be able to see the pandas, now both 20 years old, before they return to the care of the China Wildlife Conservation Association.

The loan deal saw the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland pay China an annual 'donation' of £750,000 amid hopes a cub would be produced.

Despite efforts to breed the two pandas, female Tian Tian has not produced a cub during her time in Edinburgh.

She was believed to be pregnant in August 2017, but her hormone levels and behaviour later returned to normal.

Alison Maclean, carnivore team leader at Edinburgh Zoo, commented: 'We are making arrangements with our partners in China for Yang Guang and Tian Tian to return in early December, possibly during the first week.

'Visitors to the zoo can expect to see them indoors and outside until the end of November, after which viewing will be outdoors only until they leave.

'Having cared for Yang Guang and Tian Tian since they arrived in 2011, I will be travelling back to China with them, to help them settle into their new homes.'

The giant panda habitat at Edinburgh Zoo will become home to a new species which RZSS can support in the wild, which will be announced next year.