Page last updated at 08:39 GMT, Saturday, 28 November 2009

Chinese giant pandas given star welcome in Australia


Wang Wang and Funi explore their new surroundings

Two giant pandas from China have received a VIP welcome in Australia at the start of a 10-year stay.

Wang Wang, four, and his female companion Funi, three, arrived at Adelaide airport to be met by state and zoo officials.

An 18-vehicle refrigerated convoy then travelled to central Adelaide for a parade and public party.

It is hoped that the two pandas will become the first breeding pair in the southern hemisphere.

The pair went straight into quarantine at Adelaide Zoo, munching on specially delivered bamboo from their home in Sichuan Province.

Successful breeding

"They're doing really well. They've been off-loaded and are just sitting now," said zoo spokeswoman Emily Rice.

The pair of giant pandas arrived in a chartered jumbo jet
It is hoped Wang Wang and Funi will produce offspring

"They're in the quarantine area and are very happy and relaxed."

Their purpose-built enclosure includes refrigerated rocks to keep them cool during what is expected to be a summer of record-breaking temperatures.

The zoo has a successful record of breeding endangered animals.

Wang Wang and Funi's first public appearance is scheduled for 14 December.

Officials estimate the pair could generate more than Aus $600m ($544m; £330m) for the South Australian economy during their decade-long stay.

China uses payments from zoos that host loaned giant pandas to help fund its own research programmes.

Chinese President Hu Jintao offered the pandas as a goodwill gesture during a 2007 visit to Australia.

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