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Spain holds welcoming ceremony for pandas
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Spain on Wednesday held a formal welcoming ceremony for the two Chinese giant pandas and promised to give visitors a chance to see the rare animals.

The grand ceremony, led by Spain's Queen Sofia, was arranged for the two pandas Bing Xing and Hua Zui Ba, lent by China to Madrid's Zoo Aquarium for 10 years.

The pair of pandas are the only ones in Spain. Bing, 7 years old, and Hua, 4 years old, arrived in Spain on September 8 from the Panda Base in Chengdu in southwestern China.

Bing Xing, meaning "Ice Star," weighs 140 kg and is the heaviest at the Chengdu base. His mate Hua Zui Ba, which translates as "Flowery Mouth," weighs 93 kg and is also among the strongest at the base in China.

At the ceremony, Jose Diaz, general director of the Reunidos Parks Group, said the zoo will offer visitors "a rare opportunity to see the two of the five pandas that live in Europe" by the end of this month or the beginning of October.

Diaz said he was sure that the pandas' stay in Spain "will be fruitful and we will see the birth of young in the future."

Chinese zoologists say both pandas are potentially reproductive, as Bing Xing has fathered twins and Hua Zui Ba entered the estrous cycle at three and a half years old.

The ceremony took place close to a memorial to Chulin, a panda born in the zoo in 1992 but died at the age of four.

Qiu Xiaoqi, China's ambassador to Spain, hailed the event, calling the moment as "a memorable day in the relationship between China and Spain."

He described the kings of Spain as great friends of the Chinese people and promoters of the bilateral relationship.

China and Spain launched an international cooperation program for the protection of endangered pandas in June, during Spanish King Juan Carlos I's six-day state visit to China.

All About Giant Panda China-Spain Relations

(Xinhua News Agency September 20, 2007)
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