One of the giant pandas checks out its surroundings after arriving in Finland on Thursday. [Photo/China News Service]
Finland welcomed its first pair of giant pandas this week, making it the eighth country in Europe to forge such a tie with China in the realm of panda conservation and research.
Hua Bao and Jin Bao Bao, which will be known in Finnish as Lumi (Snow) and Pyry (Flurry), arrived in Helsinki from Chengdu, China on Thursday morning.
The arrangement was confirmed when President Xi Jinping visited the country in April. Ahtari Zoo, which is 300 km north of Helsinki, will be home to the pandas for 15 years.
Their journey began at the Dujiangyan Panda Center in West China on Wednesday. The logistics company DHL transported them from Chengdu Airport to Helsinki, which is 6,500 km away.
"These two pandas are a great symbol of friendship of two countries," said Kari Vainio, the zoo's acting chief executive. "We at Ahtari Zoo are proud to offer the pandas a good home, which has the finest snow panda house outside China."
The pandas were greeted at a welcoming event at Helsinki Airport that was attended by invited guests from China and Finland.
Anna Palmroth, the zoo's panda keeper, traveled with the animals.
"Upon arrival, they get to go to their own indoor enclosures where they have fresh bamboo to make their adaptation easier," she said. "During the first few days, we will monitor the pandas' behavior and appetite intensively."
A Chinese veterinarian and panda keeper from Chengdu will stay at the zoo for a month to train staff.
The Finnish climate is similar to the climate in the Qionglai Mountains in China, the natural habitat of the giant panda, and experts hope the pandas may breed while in Finland.
Minister of Agriculture and Forestry Jari Leppa praised the efforts of China to protect the giant panda.
"Thanks to these serious efforts, the giant panda population is now growing," Leppa said. "The fact that Finland is now concretely involved in the conservation effort is truly special."
The public will be able to see Lumi and Pyry in their enclosure for the first time on Feb 17. The zoo has already started to sell tickets via its website.