BERLIN – Chinese President Xi Jinping officially presented two giant pandas to Berlin’s zoo on Wednesday, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the bamboo-munching newcomers would be “special ambassadors” for the two countries.
The pandas, Meng Meng and Jiao Qing, landed in Berlin on June 24 and have been settling in at the zoo since, out of public view. Merkel and Xi, who was visiting the German capital ahead of the Group of 20 summit that starts Friday, inaugurated the bears’ glass-fronted compound.
The pandas appeared unfazed by the celebrity welcome and placidly chewed bamboo as a red curtain was drawn back to reveal the zoo’s newest residents.
Meng Meng and Jiao Qing’s arrival in Germany was preceded by lengthy bilateral negotiations, since giant pandas are unique to China and sent abroad as diplomatic envoys. The pandas will be on loan from China for 15 years.
“I hope that the two new arrivals can quickly settle down in their second home and, perhaps, one day will have offspring,” Xi said.
He added, “I hope that the two pandas … can further deepen the friendship between our two countries.”
Jiao Qing, which means “darling,” is a 7-year-old male and weighs 108 kilograms (238 pounds). Female Meng Meng, which translates to “sweet dream” in English, is three years old and weighs 77 kilograms (169 pounds).
Their residency ends a five-year period in which the Berlin zoo had no pandas. The city’s last panda, Bao Bao, died in 2012. Bao Bao was sent in 1980 as a gift from then-Chinese leader Hua Guofeng to West German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt.
“Now we have two very likable diplomats here — the two pandas — and I think Jiao Qing and Meng Meng will be special ambassadors for our two countries,” Merkel said.