Berlin welcomes giant pandas Meng Meng and Jiao Qing

Giant pandas Meng Meng and Jiao Qing received all but a ticker-tape parade when the bears arrived to their new home in Berlin on Saturday.

The giant pandas finally reached Zoo Berlin after months of anticipation and preparation by the 173-year-old zoo's staff. 

Their arrival was a media spectacle. As the two pandas, in separate cages, were pulled on stage at Zoo Berlin, photographers snapped pictures as the crowd captured the moment on cell phones. The pandas were expected to be received by Berlin Mayor Michael Mueller and China Ambassador Shi Mingde.

As an organizer placed Jiao Qing's nametag on his cage, he launched at him and let out a loud growl, which left the crowd laughing.

Jiao Qing, whose name means "darling," and his female counterpart Meng Meng, or "sweet dream," are on loan from Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding in China.

The animals will stay at the zoo for 15 years, according to the April contract. Zoo Berlin will pay $1 million each year for the pandas. The money will go to the Giant Panda Conservation Fund, where 70% will be directed toward "protecting giant pandas in their natural habitat" Twenty percent will be dedicated to breeding research and the rest will go to administrative costs.

After a going away ceremony at Chengdu, the giant pandas boarded a Lufthansa cargo flight on Friday and arrived at their new home on Saturday. Now in Berlin, the duo will be under quarantine before going on display in July.

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF), which features a giant panda as its logo, said giant pandas face a high risk of extinction in the wild. The giant pandas' new head keeper Christian Toll said Chinese officials counted nearly 1,900 giant pandas living in their natural habitat in 2014. That number was 17% higher than a decade earlier.

The animals, which are born the size of a stick of butter, can grow to more than four feet tall and up to 330 pounds. They must eat between 26 and 84 pounds of bamboo each day, according to WWF.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

Follow Sean Rossman on Twitter: @SeanRossman

© 2017 USATODAY.COM


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