The Edinburgh Zoo has launched an app featuring a cute panda cub -- hoping that it will portend a real panda cub from its two visiting pandas and entice more people to come to the zoo.
The app, called Pom Pom Panda, can mimic a person's speech, movements and even kiss the user. The digital panda cub, since its launch last week, has proven to be popular, especially amongst children.
The app is designed in the likeness of the two giant pandas at the zoo, Tian Tian (Sweetie) and Yang Guang (Sunshine). Yang Guang and Tian Tian arrived in late 2010 as the first giant pandas in the United Kingdom in almost 20 years, bringing in a 50-percent increase in visits to the zoo. The pandas, both aged nine, are on loan from China for a period of 10 years, and will be returned to China after that.
The zoo workers said the panda couple is expected to mate in two weeks. The app's digital cub, which sports a Scottish Tam O'Shanter cap, laughs if you touch its toes and dozes off if you touch its belly. It can also "eat" bamboo.
But workers have decided not to tell Tian Tian about the digital baby.
"We haven't (let them know). We don't want them to get jealous just in case they steal the limelight. So we've kept it private so far," said John Paul, visual image designer of Pom Pom Panda app.
If the two pandas succeed in mating in the coming weeks, they will give birth to their first cub abroad. Even if they fail to do so, the zoo is ready to conduct artificial insemination for them. The cub will be returned to China when it's two years old.
"The pandas are always owned by the People's Republic of China. So even if the cub is born here, it belongs to the People's Republic of China, and after two years, it would be returned to China," said Iain Valentine, director of Animal Conservation and Research at the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland.
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