Home > News > Regional
Monday February 24, 2014 MYT 5:42:00 PM
Monday February 24, 2014 MYT 5:53:27 PM
Female Giant Panda Hao Hao arrives in a transport cage at Brussels airport, Belgium. - AFP
BRUSSELS (AFP) - Two giant pandas, on loan from China for the next 15 years, received a red carpet welcome in Belgium on Sunday where they were greeted by Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo.
Hao Hao, a four-year-old female whose name means "Friendly", and Xing Hui ("Shining Star"), a male of the same age, landed around midday (1100 GMT) at Brussels airport after their journey in a pagoda-style cage onboard a cargo plane.
Their plane, arriving after a 15-hour flight from Sichuan in southwest China, taxied into place through an arc of water from the hoses of Belgian firefighters.
The pandas, each weighing over 110 kilos (242 pounds), emerged to find around 100 journalists and dozens of children from a nearby school waiting to welcome them.
"We are very honoured and proud that China agreed to lend Belgium two of its national treasures," said Di Rupo.
The new arrivals were then whisked under police escort to the Pairi Daiza zoo in the town of Brugellette, 60 kilometres (37 miles) outside Brussels.
Entry tickets to the zoo were entirely sold out on Sunday, even though zookeepers had warned that Hao Hao and Xing Hui will not be making any public appearances until they have acclimatised and finished a period in quarantine, due to end on April 5.
The zoo has spent some 10 million euros ($14 million) to prepare a vast enclosure for its new stars in its "China Garden", comprising a pool, cave and bamboo plantation.
"They have flown over a thousand mountains and a thousand rivers to arrive in Belgium," said China's ambassador to Belgium, Liao Liqiang.
The Belgian press has also reported that one million euros per year is being paid as "rent" for the pandas, which have been a valuable tool for soft diplomacy and revenue collection for China over the years.
Giant pandas are an endangered species, with only 1,600 left in the wild in China and 300 in captivity around the world.
Tags / Keywords:
china, belgium, giant pandas, loan, 15 years, Pairi Daiza zoo, sichuan
‘Unity through education’
Railway project bid successful
Round-the-clock report on pollution from Tianjin
China’s ICBC sees first quarterly profit fall in 6 years
Strong field makes it to first base in US$12b Australian energy sale
N. Korea Red Cross agrees to talks on family reunion
Stressed-out Hong Kongers seek better life in Taiwan
India's top court suspends ban on Jains fasting to death
Bangkok bomb suspect uncooperative: Thai army chief
Suspect remains a mystery
Five unusual ways to build endurance for a marathon
Sherwood hopes Villa's injured trio return for Leicester clash
Passionate roars of support
Jobless woman happy to own a house
Copyright © 1995-2015 Star Media Group Berhad (ROC 10894D)(Formerly known as Star Publications (Malaysia) Berhad)