Friday, 7 September 2012

Giant pandas Kai Kai & Jia Jia arrive in Singapore

Channel NewsAsia, 6 Sep 2012

Singapore welcomed two new residents, giant pandas Kai Kai and Jia Jia from Chengdu, China on Thursday morning.

The pandas are in Singapore on a 10-year loan from the Chinese government to mark two decades of strong ties between China and Singapore.

Kai Kai and Jia Jia boarded a Singapore Airlines Boeing 747 cargo freighter at 3.45am on Thursday morning.

They arrived at Singapore Changi Airport about four and a half hours later, at 8.20am along with a team of five keepers and vets from both China and Singapore who were also on board to ensure the pandas' well-being.

"Singapore Airlines is pleased to have transported Kai Kai and Jia Jia to Singapore," said the CEO of Singapore Airlines, Mr Goh Choon Phong.

"We warmly welcome them to their new home at the River Safari and are privileged to be playing our part in this significant conservation initiative."

It was the pandas' first time away from home, and extra care was taken to minimise stress for the animals.

The departure and arrival times were scheduled to reduce climate-related discomfort for the pandas.

The cabin temperature was kept between 18 to 22 degrees celsius, consistent to their native habitat in Sichuan, China.

Fruits, water and about 90kg of bamboo were carried on board for the pandas' meals.

Wildlife Reserves Singapore also brought along bamboo from Guangzhou, in case the pandas need time to adjust to the taste of locally-grown bamboo.

The pandas travelled in custom-made crates which offer ample ventilation and space to move about.

A welcome ceremony was held at the JetQuay Terminal at Changi Airport, and the pair were brought to their new home at River Safari in a temperature-controlled vehicle.

At Mandai, groups of eager panda-spotters lined up to welcome the pair.

The Wildlife Reserves Singapore said there're plans to expand Singapore's role in the conservation project.

Chairman of Wildlife Reserves Singapore, Claire Chiang, said: "Maybe Singapore would host a conference next year during the anniversary of the River Safari to seriously look at the findings of respective countries. I think we could all learn from one another on the adaptability of the pandas."

The pandas will be in quarantine at a special den for a month where they'll be closely monitored and given time to settle in before they move into their million-dollar home at Singapore's upcoming tourist attraction, the River Safari.

But panda lovers will have wait till December for the celebrity pair's debut when the giant panda exhibit opens to the public.

For those who can't get enough of the pandas, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) has launched the 2012 Giant Panda Commemorative Coins, with the Silver Proof coin fashioned for the first time in a unique oval shape.

Costing between S$25 and S$140, the coins issued to mark the arrival of Kai Kai and Jia Jia also help highlight the threat of extinction faced by giant pandas today and the importance of wildlife conservation, the MAS said.

The coins come in three different versions bearing the pandas' names engraved in Chinese characters and feature Kai Kai and Jia Jia in their natural habitat.

The coins can be purchased online and at Singapore Mint outlets. Part of the proceeds will go to Wildlife Reserves Singapore.

There are also stamps, illustrated by actor Edmund Chen, as part of the collectibles.

Additionally, Singapore Airlines has launched a set of toy pandas to help raise funds for charity and these limited edition toys, each costing S$20, will go on sale on Saturday.

They will be sold at six locations - Bugis Junction, Changi Airport, Ion Orchard, Plaza Singapura, Suntec City and United Square. Retail hours start at mid-morning.

Each person can get up to four.

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