Around 2,000 people arrived at the Pairi Daizi Zoo near Brussels on Sunday to welcome the arrival of Hao Hao and Xing Hui, the giant pandas China sent overseas for a lease term of 15 years.
The arrival of the pair of four-year-old pandas is believed to be a sign of cooperation in trade between the two countries, although SCMP reports that the move has apparently already “prompted political infighting” in Belgium, some saying that Belgium’s oldest and most well known zoo in Antwerp, which was home to two Chinese pandas on loan in 1987, was deliberately snubbed.
Hao Hao and Xing Hui have until April to acclimate to their new home before the zoo is opened to some 18,000 visitors a day.
Belgium is now the 13th country to house giant pandas, considered one of the worlds most endangered species with only some 1,600 living in the wild and over 300 in captivity.
“I hope the panda research cooperation program will bear fruit soon, and Xing Hui and Hao Hao can soon give birth to a baby panda,” Li Qingwen, deputy secretary-general of the China Wildlife Conservation Association said to visitors on Sunday.