China pandas depart for Britain
A pair of giant pandas departed from southwest China on Sunday for Scotland where they will become the first of the endangered animals to live in Britain for 17 years.
Yang Guang and Tian Tian (Sunshine and Sweetie) were due to land at 1300 GMT in Edinburgh where they are expected to spend the next 10 years, Xinhua news agency reported.
The pair of eight-year-old pandas are being accompanied on their flight from Chengdu by two Chinese researchers who will help look after them until they adapt to their new life at Edinburgh Zoo, where it is hoped they will breed.
They will spend a couple of weeks settling in before being put on public display, and the zoo has already reported a huge spike in ticket sales.
Edinburgh Zoo is paying about $1 million (750,000 euros) a year to the Chinese authorities for the pandas.
The agreement to loan the creatures was announced in January following five years of negotiations, and experts from the China Wildlife Conservation Association gave the final go-ahead after a visit to Scotland in October.
China is famed for its "panda diplomacy," using the endangered bears as diplomatic gifts to other countries.
Beijing also recently agreed to lend two giant pandas to a French zoo for 10 years starting from early 2012.
Just 1,600 of the endangered animals remain in the wild in China, with some 300 others in captivity.
© 2011 AFP