Giant pandas settle into Edinburgh Zoo
Tue, 06 Dec 2011 11:12a.m.
Two giant pandas from China have arrived at Edinburgh Zoo. They are the first pandas to live in Britain in nearly two decades.
The eight-year-old pair, named Tian Tian and Yang Guang - or Sweetie and Sunshine - were welcomed by bagpipe players and a host of dignitaries as they touched down at Edinburgh Airport.
They were then transferred to a waiting lorry and arrived at Edinburgh Zoo to crowds of excited children and more bagpipes.
Sweetie and Sunshine travelled 8,000km from the south-western Chinese province of Sichuan in specially designed animal-transport containers.
The loan marks the beginning of a UK-China research programme on the animals. Both sides have described it as a signal of a growing friendship between Scotland and China.
Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland's Deputy First Minister praised links between the two countries.
"They're going to be loved here in Scotland: there's been a huge sense of excitement about their arrival and I know many people are just now eager to see them," she said.
Qin Gang, the Charge d'affaires for the People's Republic of China, also hailed the strengthening relations between the two countries.
"In recent years, the co-operation between China and Scotland has gained momentum and both sides have identified some key areas for future partnership - like green energy, infrastructure, tourism and education."
China sometimes gives or lends the cuddly looking animals - considered a Chinese national treasure - to other countries to boost relations.
Sweetie and Sunshine are to stay for 10 years at Edinburgh Zoo, where officials hope they will give birth to cubs.
Zoo officials have spent the past five years securing the loan of the animals. They are expected to boost Scottish tourism.
The loan was announced when Chinese Vice Premier Li Keqiang visited Britain to sign billions in trade deals in January.
The Royal Zoological Society of Scotland will pay more than £600,000 a year to China for the loan of the pandas - not including the expense of importing bamboo from the Netherlands.
The pair of pandas, which were given an in-flight meal of bamboo, apples and carrots, will have two weeks to settle at the zoo before going on display to the public.
They will be kept in two separate enclosures for a few months until they are ready to be introduced to each other.
The zoo also plans to put four hidden "panda cams" in their enclosures and stream the footage online to attract viewers from around the world.
Britain's last giant panda, Ming Ming, lived in the London Zoo until 1994, when she was returned to China.
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