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Giant Panda Pair Set to Make Home in Adelaide
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A pair of young giant pandas will soon call Adelaide Zoo in South Australia home.

The couple will be the first pandas to settle down in the southern hemisphere - the last time the endangered species were seen was nearly two decades ago during a visit to the Australasian region.


President Hu Jintao and Australian Prime Minister John Howard signed an agreement yesterday formalizing the 10-year loan in Sydney.


Hu said the move is a friendly gesture and the pandas will become a symbol of friendship.


Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said after the signing ceremony that he played a key role in working with the Chinese to borrow the pandas as part of a global survival program.


Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer holds a picture of a panda as he was interviewed in Sydney yesterday.


"I love animals and I think the giant panda is one of the truly great animals of the world," said Downer.


A native of Adelaide, Downer was excited that China agreed to send the pandas to the zoo where his grandfather was once the chief.


It is hoped that the two-year-old male "Wang Wang", or "Net" and one-year-old "Funi", or "Lucky Girl", will breed when they reach sexual maturity.


The two pandas are from the Wolong Nature Reserve in Sichuan Province and they were named by the public earlier this year, said Zhang Guiquan, a director at the reserve.


Chris West, CEO of the Royal Zoological Society of South Australia, said that the pair's presence in Australia will signify international collaboration to secure a future for wildlife.


"We will send our staff to Wolong to receive training," West said. "Our staff will also visit the giant panda facilities at San Diego Zoo, where they have successfully bred and managed giant pandas, and the climate is similar to that in South Australia."


The giant panda is unique to China and often serves as an unofficial national mascot. The animals were sent abroad as a sign of warm diplomatic relations or to mark breakthroughs in ties.


In a related development, two giant pandas "Bing Xing", 7, and "Hua Zui Ba", 4, are scheduled to leave China today for a 10-year sojourn in Spain.


Giant pandas are among the world's most endangered species. State Forestry Administration figures show 1,590 pandas live in the wild, mostly in the mountains of Sichuan, and more than 200 live in captivity in the country.


(China Daily September 7, 2007)

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