A YOUNG lad from Alva has completed a 100-mile cycle challenge over the course of March to help keep giant pandas in Scotland.

Alistair Thacker, 11, has been saddling up on his bike, exploring the cycle paths around the Wee County last month in a bid to raise funds for Tian Tian and Yang Guang, the two pandas at Edinburgh Zoo.

He set out to raise £100 by cycling 100 miles, a mile for each kilogram of food Yang Guang eats every day.

One month and countless pedal strokes later, Alistair has managed to smash his target, with a current total of around £350 on his JustGiving page.

Proud dad Nigel supported the 11-year-old along the way, together with Alistair's mum, siblings and others.

The fundraising drive came after Alistair heard that the zoo may need to return the giant pandas to China due to Covid-19 financial pressures.

On his "Biking for Bamboo" fundraising page, Alistair said: "I am very passionate about animals and I want to work with animals when I am older.

"I was sad when I heard about the pandas at Edinburgh Zoo the matter they may need to return to China due to the pandemic.

"The reason I want to help save pandas is because they are vulnerable to extinction so if we don't do it now it will be too late so the more support sooner, the less likely they will go extinct."

His fundraising efforts have been recognised by the zoo itself and delighted Alistair has also been invited to the zoo to learn more.

Proud dad Nigel explained to the Advertiser that the family had great fun exploring cycle paths around their Alva home and beyond, completing all of the challenge within the Wee County.

He said: "We are very proud of him, and Edinburgh Zoo have since invited Alistair to meet with the headkeeper of the pandas to find out more about the animals – he is delighted."

The female and male pair of Tian Tian and Yang Guang, whose names are affectionately translated as Sweetie and Sunshine, were born 10 days apart in August 2003.

The duo are the only giant pandas in the UK and are on a 10-year-loan from China.

The vast majority of their diet consists of different types of bamboo and they are largely solitary, only meeting to mate for a very short period each year.

Tian Tian and Yang Guang therefore have two separate, but identical enclosures at the zoo, which has taken a financial hit due to a lack of ticket sales during the pandemic.

The fundraising page is available via bit.ly/3sNGXLv and will remain open for those looking to support the cause.