Pandas coming soon to UK zoo

Updated: 2011-11-12 08:28

By Zhang Chunyan (China Daily)

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Pandas coming soon to UK zoo

Yang Guang, one of the two pandas coming to the UK. Heng Yi / for China Daily

LONDON - A project named Panda Pals was launched on Thursday in the United Kingdom as two Chinese pandas will arrive at Edinburgh Zoo within the next few weeks.

The project, also called "UK schools welcome pandas from China", includes a panda drawing competition for primary school students and a bilingual speech contest on pandas and Chinese culture for middle school students.

A panda-themed website, which will help British students learn more about China, was also launched on Thursday.

There are panda games for young British students to play, and the winners will be awarded the chance to visit Edinburgh Zoo to see the pandas.

The winner of the drawing competition, along with his or her parents, will be awarded a trip to China to visit the pandas' hometown in China's Sichuan province.

"The arrival of these rare and much loved bears will attract a great deal of interest in China and Britain," Liu Xiaoming, Chinese ambassador to the UK, said in his speech at the launch ceremony in London.

The project will create a popular focus on the cultural and people-to-people links between the two countries, Liu said.

In many aspects, the project is symbolic of the close partnership between China and the UK, Liu added.

Panda Pals will also collaborate with the BBC's program "Blue Peter" on a possible initiative to name the pandas.

The breeding pair Tian Tian - meaning "sweetie" and Yang Guang - meaning "sunlight" - will be transported to Edinburgh Zoo from the Ya'an reserve in Chengdu, Sichuan province, by the end of the year. Hugh Roberts, chief executive of the Edinburgh zoo, said, "I hope you all come and enjoy visiting the zoo and learn more about them, about their life, about their habits, their personalities."

Roberts told China Daily that the zoo is hoping that the arrival of Tian Tian and Yang Guang will be a huge attraction.

"It's a very important sign of cooperation between China and the UK, where these pandas are coming, and they are important in diplomatic and political terms, aside from the important cultural experience that people learning about China will bring as well," said Mark Hendrick MP, chairman of the All Party Parliamentary China Group.

The pair were given to the UK as "a gift from China" during a visit from Chinese Vice-Premier Li Keqiang in January.

Tian Tian and Yang Guang, born in 2003, will be the first giant pandas to live in the UK in 17 years. The animals will live in Edinburgh Zoo for 10 years under the care of the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland.