Two giant pandas arrive in the Netherlands

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Wu Wen and Xing Ya, two Chinese giant pandas arrived on Wednesday evening at Schiphol airport in Amsterdam for a 15-year stay in a Dutch zoo, making The Netherlands the seventh European country that hosts this endangered and adorable black and white bear.

The KLM special cargo flight transporting the pandas landed at around 19:30 local time. When the cages were unloaded from the plane, hundreds of people watching the live broadcast on a big screen in a nearby hall erupted into applause.

During their debut at the hall shortly after a sanitary check, both Wu Wen (Beautiful Powerful Cloud, the female panda) and Xing Ya (Elegant Star, male) made tentative steps then strolled in rounds in their tailor-made cages, saluting crowds of camera as if with somewhat curiosity.

The two three-and-half-year-old giant pandas moved in an agile way that does not match their weight of over 100 kilograms. The bamboo leaves prepared by their hometown keepers in their cages for the 9-hour trip were almost half consumed.

"It's a small step for Wu Wen and Xing Ya, but a big step for the history of Sino-Dutch relations," said Wu Ken, Chinese ambassador to the Netherlands.

The two black-and-white woolly balls also enthralled children waiting at the scene for the big moment. While some were screaming in excitement, some were holding their breath in awe for their first meeting with the pair.

There are some 2,000 giant pandas in the world. A conservation reliant vulnerable species, most of them live in captivity inside China. Before Wu Wen and Xing Ya traveled to the Netherlands, China had only agreed to carry out joint research on pandas with 12 countries, among which six in Europe. They are the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Austria, Spain and Belgium.

The arrival of Wu Wen and Xing Ya in The Netherlands "fully proves the high level of our bilateral relations which are now at their best time," said Wu Ken.

This year marks the 45th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between China and the Netherlands. "This significant 'panda moment' marks the beginning of a new chapter in our relations," he added.

"What a beautiful day. What a special moment," said Ronald van Roeden, Deputy Secretary-General at the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

He recalled many years of efforts by the Netherlands to take part in the cooperation project for the protection of the giant panda. Ouwehands Zoo located in the center of the country had been bidding for this since 2000. During the state visit of Dutch King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima to China in October 2015, an agreement was finally signed.

"With this symbolically expression is given to the excellent status of the relationship of the Dutch-Chinese relations...And now they are here, finally! And we are proud and unbelievably happy with their arrival to the Netherlands," he said.

After the ceremony, Wu Wen and Xing Ya headed for their new home in the zoo in Rhenen, where a special compound with 7 million investment by the Ouwehands Zoo is waiting for them.

The pandas are expected to be given some 50 kilos of bamboo per day, which will be provided by a bamboo grower in the central south of the Netherlands. The bamboo grower also supplies a selection of different types of bamboo for pandas in Vienna and Edinburgh.

The zoo will also launch education program on endangered species and research projects on the breeding of panda in collaboration with Wageningen, the Dutch leading university and research institute on agricultural and nature.

However, eager visitors will have to stay patient before seeing the panda pair at the zoo, because they will first be held in quarantine for up to six weeks.

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