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London - Two pandas are due to arrive in the UK's Edinburgh Zoo from China on Sunday, and they will be the first pair of giant pandas to live in the UK in 17 years.
Tian Tian and Yang Guang, born in 2003, will make the journey on board a special chartered flight from the Giant Panda Conservation and Research Centre in Sichuan province, the zoo announced on Monday
The pandas will have about two weeks to become accustomed to their new environment before they go on display to the public. The public will need to pre-book the tickets, and all details of public viewing arrangements will be published on Edinburgh Zoo's website.
"We have been looking forward to this moment for five years now, since we first embarked on this epic journey to bring the giant pandas to Scotland," said Hugh Roberts, chief executive of Edinburgh Zoo.
The animals will live in Edinburgh Zoo for 10 years under the care of the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland.
"The pandas will be on loan to us for an initial period of 10 years, in which time we are hopeful that the female, Tian Tian, will give birth to cubs – the first to be born in Scotland," Roberts said.
"The arrival of Tian Tian and Yang Guang is an historic occasion for the Zoo, for Scotland, and for the UK as a whole. Our dedicated team at the Zoo has worked tirelessly to create a world-class enclosure to house our newest additions which will offer visitors an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to view these extraordinary animals," Roberts added.
The pair was given to the UK as "a gift from China" during a visit?by Chinese Vice-Premier Li Keqiang in January.
The announcement follows a successful visit to Scotland's capital in October by the China Wildlife Conservation Association (CWCA), an organization dedicated to giant panda conservation since 1983, which has now given the final go-ahead for the pandas' 10-year residence in Scotland.
The CWCA confirmed the date following a rigorous assessment of the giant pandas' enclosure at Edinburgh Zoo, together with plans for the animals' care during the 10 years of the project.
The pandas will travel from China to Scotland onboard a FedEx Express Boeing 777 Freighter in custom Panda livery - known as the "FedEx Panda Express". The pandas are expected to spend the minimum possible amount of time in the air.
- Apr 26 Sat 2014 09:32