‘Great honor’ as panda pair arrive in Indonesian capital

TWO giant pandas from China arrived in Indonesian capital Jakarta yesterday on a 10-year joint research lease, making Indonesia one of the 16 countries and regions to host and help breed the endangered bear species.

The 7-year-olds landed at Jakarta’s international airport around 9am on a flight by Indonesia’s main flagship carrier Garuda Indonesia from the panda breeding and research base in China’s southwestern city of Chengdu.

Cai Tao, a male, and female Hu Chun will be transferred to a 4,800-square-meter panda park at the Taman Safari zoo, 75 kilometers south of Jakarta and 1,700 meters above sea level to ensure the pandas are at a similar altitude to their hometown.

The pandas will be available for public viewing a month later after the quarantine period.

After a long air trip accompanied by both Chinese and Indonesian panda keepers and veterinarians, Cai Tao and Hu Chun were greeted by Charge d’Affaires of Chinese Embassy in Indonesia Sun Weide and Indonesian Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya.

Siti said it was a great honor for Indonesia to receive a couple of giant pandas.

Siti thanked China for supporting wildlife conservation in Indonesia, saying the people of Indonesia will be proud to have pandas in their country.

Panda mania swept the vast archipelago country when the pair’s arrival date was announced last week with Indonesians delighted they will be able to see the cuddly animals near home.

Putri Rosmalia, a journalist from Indonesia’s Media Indonesia newspaper, said she had been expecting the pandas for years, and wished to know more and write more stories about pandas.

She said she wants to say “wish you two enjoy the stay in Indonesia and have baby pandas soon” to the pandas if they could understand the Indonesian language.

Beny, an airport cargo handler, said he was very proud to see pandas for real, and will bring his family to visit them once the panda park is open.

The furry ambassadors, regarded as national treasures in China, are adored worldwide as envoys for friendship and a symbol of peace.

“The arrival highlights the deep friendship between China and Indonesia and helps re-invigorate our friendly exchanges and bilateral relationship,” Sun said. “This marks yet another historical moment in our bilateral relationship.”

Talks regarding the pandas were initiated in 2010 when China and Indonesia celebrated the 60th anniversary of the diplomatic ties.

A memorandum of understanding was signed by representatives of the China Wildlife Conservation Association and Taman Safari Indonesia last year.

“The cooperation of this conservation will enrich Indonesia’s world wildlife collection and is expected to become one of the symbols of the diplomatic relations between China and Indonesia,” Siti said.

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