Giant pandas head for the Netherlands, and the bamboo is on order

Workers carry the female giant panda Wu Wen to a transport cage. Photo: Chinatopix Via AP

Two giant pandas destined for a 15-year stay in a Dutch zoo, left China for the Netherlands on Wednesday.

The plane carrying the pandas, as well as 200 regular passengers, is due to land at Schiphol airport on Wednesday evening, and the giant mammals, behind sheets of plexiglass, will then be introduced to the Dutch public for the first time.

However, Wu Wen (Beautiful Powerful Cloud) and Xing Ya (Elegant Star) will not be seen by the zoo public for some time because they will first be held in quarantine for up to six weeks.

The pandas are heading for the Ouwehands Dierenpark zoo in Rhenen which has spent 16 year campaigning to bring pandas to the Netherlands. The zoo invested €7m on a special compound which was given official Chinese approval earlier this year.

The cost of the new compound plus the €900,000 a year fee means that entrance tickets will be more expensive: visitors will be paying a so-called ‘panda tax’.

Bamboo

The pandas are expected to go through 500 kilos of bamboo a week, which will be sourced from a bamboo grower in Asten and delivered weekly. The company Bamboo Giant, also supplies the food from a selection of different types of bamboo, for pandas in Vienna and Edinburgh.

‘The pandas are choosy,’ director Bennie Nielen told the NRC. ‘Every week the keepers in Vienna and Edinburg send us an overview of what they have eaten and what they have not touched so the menu can be adapted.’

The pandas are accompanied by a keeper and a vet from China who will stay with them for at least three months.

And in case the pandas do decide to procreate, the female Wu Wen has a bigger enclosure with room for a baby.

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