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January 6, 2010

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Shanghai's 10 special Expo pandas arrive safely

TEN young pandas - surely the trump-card promotion for the Shanghai 2010 World Expo - arrived safely in the city yesterday.

They were immediately put into quarantine where they will remain before making their Shanghai debuts at the end of the month.

The 10 arrived at Hongqiao International Airport at 3:42pm and were transferred to Shanghai Zoo at 4:45pm, each in a cage covered by nine layers of protective material.

The pandas set off from Ya'an, in southwest China's Sichuan Province, yesterday morning.

Carers initially found it smooth going to coax them from the "panda kindergarten" into cages.

However, problems began when it came to the last one, Han Yuan. She climbed a tree and refused to come down.

However, her resistance didn't last long - the offer of a carrot was just too tempting and she exited the tree and entered the cage.

"It was hard for her to leave home," said Li Guo, a carer with the Bifengxia Base of the Wolong Panda Reserve Center in Ya'an. "She was homesick even before leaving."

When arriving in the city, Han Yuan was shy again. She was a little overawed by the new environment and refused to leave the cage. But again, she compromised thanks to the lure of bamboo and fruit.

The long trip hasn't dampened their enthusiasm or playfulness as they have already started to explore their new home, staring at people and cameras.

"The 10 pandas need one or two weeks to adapt to the new environment here," said Chen Lihua, chief carer of the zoo.

Chen said they would drink milk with infant formula and each would eat about 20 kilograms of bamboo.

The "national treasures" attracted more than 40 reporters and media representatives to the zoo.

All 10 pandas are about 1 1/2 years old and were born after the massive earthquake in Sichuan Province in May 2008.

Zoo officials said there would not be an entrance-fee increase when the new panda section was opened to the public.

Fang Yuan, a 22-year-old Shanghai white-collar worker, echoed the sentiments of a city agog with anticipation. "I can't wait to see the young pandas," said Fang.


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