Danish queen to open new zoo enclosure for Chinese pandas

In this picture taken trough a window female panda Men Meng eats bamboo at its enclosure at the Zoo in Berlin, Germany, Friday, April 5, 2019. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)

Denmark's Queen Margrethe is opening a new zoo enclosure for a pair of Chinese pandas

COPENHAGEN, Denmark — Denmark's Queen Margrethe is set to open an enclosure at Copenhagen zoo Wednesday for two freshly arrived occupants: a pair of pandas on loan from China as the Scandinavian nation becomes part of Beijing's so-called "panda diplomacy."

The Chinese Ambassador to Denmark, Deng Ying, called male Xing Er and female Mao Sun "national treasures of China and symbol of peace" when they arrived last week.

The bears were accommodated at a newly built, 160 million-kroner ($24.2 million) Panda House, designed by Danish architect Bjarke Engels.

The monarch will declare the enclosure open later Wednesday. The public can see the pandas for the first time Thursday.

The enclosure in the central part of the Copenhagen Zoo is shaped like the Chinese Yin-Yang symbol and has a panda-themed restaurant. The animals will be separated and later brought together during the mating season.

On Thursday, the animal park will be open to visitors who can get a glimpse of the pandas in their enclosure, which has been under construction since late 2017. The bears eat bamboo grown in southern Denmark and can live up to 30 years in captivity.

The zoo said 6-year-old Xing Er replaced another male panda originally chosen for Denmark after it was discovered he wasn't able to procreate.

China has lent out pandas as a sign of goodwill and closer political ties to fewer than two dozen nations. Although China calls the gesture a gift, the pandas are in reality on loan for 15 years and any cubs born during the loan are considered to be the property of China.

In February 2018, China loaned two pandas to Finland, and in June 2017, two of the animals arrived at Berlin's Tierpark zoo, where the first visitors were German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Chinese President Xi Jinping.

The best-known case of panda diplomacy was in 1972, when a arrived in the U.S., two months after President Richard Nixon's trip to China, ending 25 years of isolation and tension between the two.

Danish Prime Minister Lars Loekke Rasmussen visited China last year and saw the animals at a zoo in the southwestern city of Chengdu.

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This version corrects the year the pandas arrived in Finland to 2018, spelling of the male panda's name to Xing Er, not Zing Er.

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