China's giant pandas arrive at Belgian zoo
Last Updated: 2014-02-24 01:03 | Xinhua
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A transparent box carrying giant panda Hao Hao is loaded into a truck after arriving by plane at Brussels airport February 23, 2014. [Photo/Agencies]

A pair of giant pandas from southwest China's Sichuan Province arrived at their new home in Belgium's Pairi Daiza zoo, some 60 km southwest of downtown Brussels, at around 15:00 local time (1400GMT) on Sunday.

About 2,500 people, many of them excited children waving national flags of China and Belgium as well as panda-decorated flags or wearing costume of Panda greeted the pandas along the road to the zoo.

Visitors today can only observe the pandas through a closed-circuit television system in the reception.

Officials said they want the pandas fully adapted to their new home before making public debut in April. The zoo authorities set the daily maximum visitors at 18,000 by then.

The pandas, Xing Hui, the male and Hao Hao, the female, are both 4 years old and are on lease from a breeding center in southwest China's Sichuan Province.

The lease term is 15 years, according to officials with the China Conservation and Research Center for Giant Pandas, the world's largest research base for the species.

"It's a good thing for Belgium,"Nicole Duflot, a grandmother coming to the zoo with her husband and her grandson told Xinhua, "though today we can't see the Panda but it's a great thing for us to come here."

The Pandas will be living in a panda hall of 5,300 square meters within the zoo.

"I hope Xing Hui and Hao Hao will enhance friendship between Belgium and China." Liao Liqiang, the Chinese ambassador to Belgium, said during an interview with Xinhua.

"I hope the panda research cooperation programme will bear fruit soon, and Xing Hui and Hao Hao can soon give birth to a baby panda, I hope the Belgium people continue to pay close attention to them and pandas protection." Li Qingwen, Deputy Secretary-general of China Wildlife Conservation Association said when addressing to the visitors coming to the zoo.

Li said, giant panda is China's national treasure, pandas now enjoy better situation in the wild after all theses years of protection efforts.

"There are 2 captive-bred pandas released to the wild successfully, one of which has already live in the wild for one and a half year and the monitoring shows that it is in good condition." He told Xinhua.

"Panda is the flag species to promote the animal and plant diversity, I hope we can encourage wild life protection through the cooperation programme."Jia Jiansheng, deputy director of Department of Wildlife Conservation and Nature Reserve Management, State Forestry Administration of China, told Xinhua.

"In a bid to make the pair feel at home, the zoo spent altogether 10 million euros (13.7 million U.S. dollars) for the construction, 8 million euros of which spent on Chinese Temple and the Panda enclosure and 2 million euros for the improving the condition of the rest of the zoo,"Eric Domb,President of Pairi Daiza Zoo, said in the news conference.

The zoo authority said, the pandas sleep a lot in the trip, and they are in very good condition than expected.

They also said that the zoo will first try feeding the pandas 40 different varieties of bamboo, supplied from France and the Netherlands. Then depending on which varieties Hao hao and Xing Hui most like, Pairi Daiza have allocated 4 hectares of land to grow bamboo plantations for the duo.

In 1987, two giant pandas visited Belgium but only stayed a few months. Built on ruins of a medieval monastery, Pairi Daiza Zoo was praised as one of the best zoo in Europe, and has the largest Chinese garden in it. Some of the rare Chinese animal such as the Red Crowned Crane and the red panda has been settle down there.

Giant pandas are one of the world's most endangered species. About 1,600 live in the wild, mostly in the mountains of Sichuan, while more than 300 live in captivity.

Known as China's "national gem," more than 40 pandas are on lease, and their offspring now live in 18 zoos in 13 countries. The lease term is usually 10 years.

Xing Hui and Hao Hao are the first two giant pandas China has sent overseas for a lease term of 15 years.

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