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Sunday, December 4, 2011

It's panda-monium: Giant pandas Sweetie and Sunshine finally set to arrive in Britain from China

By Mail On Sunday Reporter

Bring me Sunshine: Giant pandas Sweetie and Sunshine will arrive in Scotland today after a 5,000-mile journey from China

Britain’s first giant pandas for nearly 20 years will arrive in Scotland today after four years of diplomatic negotiations.

Tian Tian, whose name is translated as Sweetie, and Yang Guang (Sunshine) are causing a stir even before going on show at Edinburgh Zoo later this month. Interest in the pair crashed the zoo’s computers.

The pandas will arrive at the zoo at 1pm today after a gruelling 26-hour journey from south-west China.

The eight-year-old bears – whom it is hoped will produce Britain’s first panda cub – will be taken straight to their new £300,000 enclosures to recover.

The pair will be kept under a strict six-month quarantine, with keepers wearing protective suits and being trained in avoiding bites, amid concerns the pandas could be carrying rabies.

Bulking up: Sunshine pictured tucking into some bamboo in his enclosure before embarking on his journey this week

Going the distance: Sweetie and her mate Sunshine will be the first pandas to live in the UK for 20 years

Their arrival follows years of tense negotiations with the Chinese government.
Princess Anne, Prime Ministers David Cameron and Gordon Brown and First Minister Alex Salmond were all involved before China agreed to loan the pandas to Edinburgh Zoo for ten years.

Fragile cargo: The bears are loaded into special crates before boarding a plane heading for Edinburgh

It is 17 years since the UK’s last giant panda, Ming Ming, left London Zoo to return to China.

Edinburgh Zoo’s computers crashed almost as soon as the pandas’ arrival was announced last week. A spokesman said: ‘We have had tremendous interest and expect ticket sales to soar when the pandas are actually here.’

In the media spotlight: The arrival of the bears will be the culmination of five, painstaking years of negotiations between the UK with China



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