March 04, 2016 12:17
A pair of pandas were airlifted from China to Korea on Thursday as a symbol of bilateral ties.
Aibao, a two-year-old female, and Lebao, a three-year-old male, flew in from the western Chinese province of Sichuan aboard a Korean Air flight. They were then taken to Everland theme park south of Seoul on a long-term loan.
Chinese President Xi Jinping had promised a gift of pandas to Korea during a summit with President Park Geun-hye in July 2014. The last time Korea benefited from China's famous panda diplomacy was in 1994, but the country could not afford their upkeep and gave them back.
The pandas flew the 2,400 km to Korea in a specially made cage accompanied by two minders and a veterinarian. The temperature on the plane was maintained at 18 degrees Celsius, and the sensitive beasts were given no fewer than eight health checkups during the three-hour flight.
The truck that transported them to Everland was specially designed to be free of vibration and to maintain a constant temperature.
Samsung C&T, which operates Everland, sent an experienced panda trainer to China in January to become more familiar with the pair. They will be shown to the public in April, but only on relay video or behind a one-way glass.
Pandas are endangered, not least because the carnivores by some environmental fluke decided to go vegan and restrict their diet to bamboo shoots, which make them sluggish and reluctant to mate.
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