Belgian Ambassador to China Michel Malherbe (second from right) and Pairi Daizi Zoo’s president Eric Domb (right) with Xing Hui at the giant panda breeding center in Sichuan province, Feb 22, 2014.
Belgian Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo along with 10,000 compatriots are set to welcome a pair of giant pandas that departed a breeding center in Sichuan yesterday and will arrive in Belgium today, the scale and cost of which visit ‘outrivals those by royals and superstars’.
Xinhua reports that hundreds of people were in attendance for a ceremony on Saturday to send the two pandas off at the China Conservative and Research Center for Giant Pandas.
The pair of four-year-old pandas, Hao Hao and Xing Hui, will stay in Belgium on lease for the next 15 years after they arrive at the Pairi Daizi Zoo.
SCMP notes that the pandas are already “celebrities” in China, as they have their own Twitter feed and Hao Hao was voted China’s favorite panda at the international Giant Panda Zoo Awards last year.
“I believe that the arrival of the two pandas will boost communication between Belgium and China for the coming 15 years,” Belgian Ambassador to China Michel Malherbe said.
“It’s a perfect symbol of our cooperation in trade, investment, culture, and most importantly, the contact of people to people,” he added.
Two other pandas, Wan Wan and Xi Xi were loaned to the Antwerp Zoo in Belgium in 1987 for six months.
Xinhua reports that 43 panda guests are currently living in 17 zoos across 12 foreign countries in cooperation with China. While the lease term is usually 10 years, the head of Sichuan’s breeding center explained that the Belgian lease term has been expanded to cover the optimum reproductive age of giant pandas, from five to 19 years.
“It’s the hope of both countries that they breed successfully in Belgium,” he said.
As long as the fine folk at the Pairi Daizi Zoo aren’t offended by a little panda porn.
[Image via ECNS]