‘Panda Express’ delivers pandas to Scotland

The Associated Press

LONDON — Two giant pandas from China landed Sunday in Scotland, where they will become the first to live in Britain in nearly two decades.

The 8-year-old pair, named Tian Tian and Yang Guang — or Sweetie and Sunshine — were welcomed by bagpipe players and dignitaries at Edinburgh Airport on a specially chartered Boeing 777 flight called the “Panda Express.”

The pandas are to stay for 10 years at Edinburgh Zoo, where officials hope they will give birth to cubs.

The loan marked the beginning of a U.K.-China research program on the animals, and both sides have described it as a signal of a growing friendship between Scotland and China. “It shows that we can cooperate closely not only on commerce, but on a broad range of environmental and cultural issues as well,” said British Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg.

Zoo officials have spent the past five years securing the loan of the animals. The loan was announced in January, when Chinese Vice Premier Li Keqiang visited Britain to sign billions in trade deals.

The pair of pandas, which were given an in-flight meal of bamboo, apples and carrots, will have two weeks to settle at the zoo before going on display to the public. They will be kept in two separate enclosures for a few months until they are ready to be introduced to each other.

The zoo also plans to put four hidden “panda cams” in their enclosures and stream the footage online to attract viewers from around the world.