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Spain says goodbye to panda family, awaits new pair from China

Xinhua | Updated: 2024-02-23 10:20

Giant panda twins are seen at Madrid Zoo Aquarium in Madrid, on March 21, 2022. [Photo/Xinhua]

MADRID - A zoo in Spain's capital Madrid hosted a farewell party on Thursday to bid goodbye to its beloved panda family of five who will soon return to China.

Panda couple Bing Xing and Hua Zui Ba, accompanied by their three Madrid-born cubs Chulina, You You and Jiu Jiu, will fly back to Chengdu in southwest China's Sichuan Province on Feb 29, sources with the Madrid Zoo Aquarium said.

The zoo will expect a younger panda couple from China in the coming months, following the renewal of its agreement for giant panda protection with the China Wildlife Conservation Association.

Bing Xing and Hua Zui Ba arrived in Madrid in 2007 from the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding and have since given birth to six cubs. Their three older cubs, born in 2010 and 2013, have already returned to China. Of the three younger cubs, Chulina was born in 2016, and a pair of twins, You You and Jiu Jiu, were born in 2021.

Visitors can still visit the panda family at the zoo until next Wednesday.

At Thursday's ceremony, Madrid's Mayor Jose Luis Martinez-Almeida said the farewell was sad, like "saying goodbye to a loved one when they embark on a trip," but the close relationship with the cuddly bears has brought great joy.

Chinese Ambassador to Spain Yao Jing expressed thanks to the Spanish people and all the visitors to the zoo for their love of the pandas. "They are happy, healthy and ready to go home."

Yao said the two countries' cooperation in panda protection has also enhanced their friendship and mutual understanding.

Zoo Aquarium received the first pair of pandas from China in 1978. Four years later, Chu Lin was born, the first panda cub born in captivity in Europe.

Over the years, zoo workers in Madrid have learned to care, protect and breed pandas with the help of Chinese and Spanish experts.

"Through the pandas, we can learn a lot about the Chinese culture," said Alejandro Cabrera, a panda carer. "They all have Chinese names and we know their meanings. They are very good ambassadors of China."

"On a technical level, we have learned a lot and we have worked at the highest level with many scientists to achieve reproduction," Eva Martinez, head of the veterinary department at the zoo in Madrid, said of panda breeding.

Giant pandas have been playing the role of "ambassadors," fostering bridges of friendship between China and other countries. Since the 1990s, China has carried out joint protection research initiatives with 26 institutions from 20 countries, and successfully bred 68 giant panda cubs in 41 litters.

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