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Panda diplomacy in Berlin

July 5, 2017

Ahead of the G20, Chancellor Angela Merkel met with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Berlin to celebrate the arrival of two giant pandas. The bears will be on view to the public at the Berlin Zoo starting Thursday.

A panda enjoys some bamboo
Image: Getty Images/AFP/T. Schwarz

Meng Meng and Jiao Qing made headlines last month when their plane landed in Berlin. The two adult giant pandas are on loan from China in an attempt to breed the rare animal at the Berlin Zoo.

They and their new home, Panda Garden, were celebrated in a public ceremony on Wednesday attended by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Read more: China's Xi Jinping in Berlin to talk trade, missiles and pandas ahead of G20

Pandas Meng Meng and Jiao Qing land in Berlin
The bears have already won fans in BerlinImage: Getty Images/M. Tantussi

Bao Bao

The only zoo in Germany to house the rare giant panda, the Berlin Zoo has created a special home for the black-and-white bears.

Prior to the arrival of Meng Meng and Jiao Qing, the last panda from China to live in Germany's capital city was Bao Bao.

A gift from the Chinese government to West German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt in 1980, Bao Bao died in 2012.

Today, however, pandas are no longer gifted to states but are rather loaned out at a cost of $1 million (about 880,000 euros) per year. The rules for the panda deal were agreed to by Merkel during an official visit to China two years ago.

Strict regulations

Pandas Meng Meng and Jiao Qing land in Berlin
The Panda Garden at the Berlin Zoo opens to the public on ThursdayImage: Getty Images/M. Tantussi

After his death, Bao Bao received a funeral comparable to what a celebrity might expect. His fame bodes well for the reception of the two newcomers to Berlin.

Read more: Why our obsession with animals is schizophrenic

If all goes well, the pair will mate. That is something that has proven difficult in the past - Berlin has yet to get lucky in that respect.

Should Sweet Dream (Meng Meng in Chinese) and Darling (Jiao Qing) procreate, Berlin will not be able to keep the offspring. As part of the terms of agreement, any cubs will be returned to China once they no longer need their mother.

ct/cmk (afp/dpa)