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Panda diplomacy: China’s bear pair to be unveiled to Moscow Zoo visitors

The official handover ceremony, due to be attended by Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping, will be held later on Wednesday

MOSCOW, June 5. /TASS/. A pair of giant pandas named Ru Yi and Ding Ding will be unveiled to visitors at the Moscow Zoo on Wednesday.

The young pandas, considered to be the unofficial symbol of China, were handed over by China to Russia during the April visit of Russian President Vladimir Putin to Beijing. This event was dedicated to the celebration of the 70th anniversary of establishing bilateral diplomatic relations.

The official handover ceremony, due to be attended by Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping, will be held later on Wednesday.

The pandas will spend 15 years in Russia as part of a joint research project aimed at studying the ways of preserving the animals and the possibility of returning them into the wild. For this, scientists need to learn about their diets, ensure breeding prospects and help them fight diseases.

"This is not a gift, this is a scientific and research effort envisaging the participation of two countries in research to support the animals," an adviser at the Moscow Department for External Economic and International Relations, Maria Pasuginova, said.

Under the project, working groups from Chinese natural reserves will travel to Russia on a regular basis to conduct joint research endeavors and organize additional training programs for Moscow specialists. Earlier, six Moscow Zoo specialists, including zoologists, zookeepers and veterinarians, came to China for a month to undergo training on taking care of the animals.

Ru Yi and Ding Ding

According to Moscow municipal officials, China had offered Russia to choose between an older and a younger pair of pandas. The choice fell on a three-year-old male named Ru Yi and a two-year-old female named Ding Ding. The two bears had not known each other before their arrival in Russia and got acquainted on the territory of their new home. "The young pandas are babies now, and they were of a great interest for scientific and research endeavors," Pasuginova said.

Ru Yi was born on July 31, 2016. He hails from the Bifengxia Giant Panda Base in southwest China’s Sichuan province. According to the reserve’s administration, "the boy is very candid, he is communicative and easy to get along with, he loves people and is eager to contact with them."

Ding Ding was born on July 30, 2017 at the Wolong Nature Reserve in Sichuan. According to Svetlana Akulova, the Moscow Zoo director, "Ding Ding as a real girl is a little bit mean, and is not willing to contact, she loves being on her own."

The pandas were given their names when they were born. Ru Yi means "wishes come true," and Ding Ding is similar to "the sound of falling drops." The representatives of the project’s working group said China had given permission to rename the animals. Now, Russia plans to launch a nationwide vote on renaming the pandas.

The bears’ favorite dish, bamboo, will be delivered to Moscow from Sichuan. On average, one big panda eats some 50 kg of bamboo per day, and the young pair will need some 700 kg per week. In the future, the task will be set to add new dishes to their diets, including Russian bamboo. The bears also love apples and carrots.

Long-awaited guests

The Moscow Zoo has repaired a cage where the pandas had stayed during their previous visits to Russia. According to the zoo director, Ru Yi and Ding Ding will have their own pavilion with different levels, so that the pandas can play and crawl in comfort. There are also lairs, where the animals will hide if they want to have a rest.

Visitors won’t have to buy a special ticket to see the bears and will be able to admire the pandas as long as they want to, the director said. "It is most important that they guests behave in a delicate way, the pandas are still babies."

The Soviet Union and China have a history of so-called "panda diplomacy". China first sent a giant panda to the Soviet Union in 1957 as a token of good relations between the two states.