Mini-digger helps deliver new panda enclosure at Edinburgh Zoo

The Kubota in action at the zoo with zebras watching on

A Kubota KX057-4 excavator is helping pave the way for a new habitat for the giant pandas at Edinburgh Zoo.

The zoo revealed last year that Tian Tian and Yang Guang would be moving to a new home on what is currently the African Plains section of the zoo.

Livingston-based construction company Ashwood Scotland Ltd is onsite at the moment, creating a new state-of-the-art enclosure and turning the vision into reality. The versatile Kubota is assisting with a range of tasks including ditching, grading and digging out posts.

Ashwood Scotland project manager Lee Westerman told Project Plant, “The pandas are relocating from the bottom of the zoo to the top. The location will prove beneficial to the pandas and allows the public greater access without being intrusive. This will be a purpose-built state-of-the-art facility. A challenge for us is the logistics of the site and ensuring that both staff and material deliveries can move efficiently without compromising the safety of the other users and visitors.

“Also, animals are in close proximity to us. We’ve got the zebras in the field adjacent and the nyala. We’ve also got the wallabies nearby. It’s definitely different to your normal construction project!

“We’ve also got koalas adjacent to the site which are really sensitive to noise and we have to be sympathetic and caring to the needs of the animals as we undertake the works. Communication is key to a successful delivery and we are in regular contact with the zoo management.”

Ashwood Scotland Ltd has been onsite since mid-October, with works due to complete in early May. The project is currently on programme. Lee added, “I believe this is the first panda enclosure to be constructed in Europe and we are delighted to have been commissioned to undertake these works.”

The 5.5-tonne Kubota was purchased by Ashwood Scotland from Molson Young Plant Sales. Darren Petersen, area sales manager, said Ashwood considered carefully the versatility, reliability and suitability to the operators and made an informed purchase based on these factors.

“The KX057-4 was one of our most popular selling machines last year and this year we’re looking to do the same,” Darren commented. “We find the 57 trumps all the rest of the machines that manufacturers are putting out at that size. They’re pretty well priced and reliable. The resale value on the Kubota is the best on the market.

“You couldn’t really do a job this size with a 1.8 or 2.5-tonner. Ashwood looked at a three-tonner but said they needed something bigger.”