Feature: New giant panda couple makes debut in Spain

MADRID, May 30 (Xinhua) -- Visitors to Spain's Madrid Zoo Aquarium were introduced Thursday to a giant panda couple from China. The new arrivals were welcomed at an official ceremony attended by authorities and experts from both countries.

Male Jin Xi and female Zhu Yu, both born in 2020, arrived last month at the zoo following the renewal of its agreement for giant panda protection with the China Wildlife Conservation Association. They are set to remain in Spain for the next 10 years.

The renewal was announced last February, when the park bid farewell to its panda family of five, which are now residing at the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding, in southwest China's Sichuan province.

After the new couple's arrival on April 29, they completed a smooth quarantine period. They have been supervised by a technical team including a carer and veterinarian from Chengdu who will be in Madrid for the next few months to facilitate their adaptation, the zoo said.

A 13-year-old visitor named Martin told Xinhua he's very interested in pandas as they "are an endangered species we need to preserve." "I like how they climb the trees and the way they eat bamboo," he added.

Two young mothers, giving their names as Cristina and Nazare, said they had visited the pandas on several occasions and were anxious to show Jin Xi and Zhu Yu to their children.

Madrid Mayor Jose Luis Martinez-Almeida welcomed the two "new neighbors." "We are proud to host this unique species and to contribute to its preservation," he said at the official ceremony.

China's Ambassador to Spain Yao Jing, meanwhile, highlighted that "the friendly bond" created by the pandas would unite the two peoples and serve as "an important symbol of China-Spain friendship."

Madrid Zoo Aquarium received its first pair of giant pandas from China in 1978. Four years later, Chu Lin was born, the first panda cub born in captivity in Europe.

Chengdu Giant Panda Research and Breeding Base's Director Yin Zhidong, who also attended the ceremony on Thursday, recalled that six cubs have been successfully bred over the last 17 years at the Madrid zoo.

"Cooperation between China and Spain on the giant panda is an example," he said. "We will work together to care for the new pair and carry out research on breeding, prevention and disease control, thus positively contributing to giant panda conservation."

After the debut of the giant panda couple, visitors to the zoo can now participate in educational activities every weekend.

"We try to bring information about pandas to the public so they can know pandas better and how we can protect the species," zoo staff Luis Manchado, who is responsible for the educational section, told Xinhua.

According to the zoo, the couple enjoys a mixed diet of more than 60 species of fresh bamboo and tender gourmet shoots. The male currently weighs around 110 kilos and the female 98 kilos.

Giant pandas are known as "cultural ambassadors" of China to the world. Since the 1990s, China has carried out joint protection research initiatives with 26 institutions from 20 countries and successfully bred 68 giant panda cubs in 41 litters.

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