Giant Pandas heads for Holland on 15-year research mission

Updated 2017-04-12 09:00:44 Xinhua
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A panda doll is pictured on street of Rhenen, the Netherlands, on April 5, 2017. The “Pandasia” at Ouwehands Zoo in the Netherlands will house giant pandas Xing Ya and Wu Wen, which are expected to arrive on April 12. (Xinhua/Gong Bing)

With “visas” granted by Consul General Koen Sizoo of the Netherlands in Chongqing, Xingya and Wuwen, a pair of giant pandas, were given the all clear to fly to Amsterdam from their home province of Sichuan, southwest China, Wednesday afternoon.

Their 15-year sojourn will be at Ouwehands Zoo, the Netherlands, and was organized as part of a scientific research cooperation.

This is the first time that Holland has played host to China's national animal.

Zhang Haiqing, vice director of China Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda (CCRCGP), handed over files on the two pandas to the zoo Tuesday.

“Everyone is mad about them,” said Brenda van Ekeren, a zoo keeper who escorted the pandas. She arrived in Wolong last month with her colleagues to get acquainted with the pandas.

They began to respond to her instructions, and she has learned to call their names in the Sichuan dialect, said van Ekeren.

Both Xingya, male, and Wuwen, female, were born in August 2013.

Xingya was “macho, playful” while Wuwen “is inquisitive, but very gentle,” she said.

To ease the animals into their new lives, CCRCGP has prepared a welcoming feast of 40 kg of bamboo shoots, 80 kg of bamboo, and plenty of apples, carrots and a special kind of bread made of corn, rice, soy beans, eggs and other nutrients.

“They were both in a fairly good physical condition,” said Hu Zhengquan, who has been caring for giant pandas for five years at the CCRCGP.

Xingya and Wuwen are due to land in Amsterdam Wednesday evening. They will go through a month of quarantine after a welcome ceremony.

Hu and his colleagues will be based at the zoo to help the pair get used to the new surroundings.

Giant panda protection specialist Li Desheng said that Chinese experts can learn advanced concepts from their foreign counterparts while providing technical support abroad.

The CCRCGP has forged ties with 13 zoos from the United States, the United Kingdom, Austria, Japan, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, Australia, Belgium, the Republic of Korea, and Holland, since 1996.

All together, 28 giant pandas were sent abroad under the cooperation schemes. Eleven of 17 cubs born abroad have returned to China.

China had 1,864 giant pandas in the wild at the end of 2015, up from about 1,100 in 2000. There are also 422 animals in captivity, according to China's State Forestry Administration.

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