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Pandas packing bags for trip away from home

By Huang Zhiling (China Daily)

09:44, January 11, 2012

French zoo has all the amenities to host guests

CHENGDU - A pair of pandas from Southwest China may need to polish up their parlez-vous before boarding a plane on Sunday for France.

The pair, Yuan Zai and Huan Huan, have booked a 10-year stay in ZooParc de Beauval.

"A grand send-off ceremony will be held on Saturday," said Zhang Zhihe, chief of the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding in Chengdu, Sichuan province.

Both the male panda Yuan Zai (Round Boy) and female Huan Huan (Happy One) were born in 2008.

To prepare for their French trip, they are under quarantine at the Chengdu base.

"They are eating normally and are in good health," said Huang Xiangming, head of the animal management department at the Chengdu base.

"As the duo will leave Chengdu, many panda fans in Sichuan are sending best wishes for their life in France," said Tan Hongming, deputy chief of the base.

Since 2005, workers at the French zoo have visited the panda base many times, and in late 2007 experts from Chengdu visited the zoo to investigate whether it had the experts and proper facilities for the pandas.

"The French zoo is fully prepared for the arrival of the duo. It has built a luxury residence combining Chinese pavilions and a French courtyard," Zhang said.

The French zoo has purchased many building materials from China. It has also placed Chinese stone lions to decorate the panda residence.

The two pandas will be present on Jan 27 when France celebrates the 48th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and France.

In 1973, China sent two pandas to France for the first time.

One of them, Yan Yan lived alone in France for 27 years before it died of old age, becoming one of the longest-living Chinese pandas in Europe.


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