The two giant pandas living at Ouwehands Zoo in the Dutch city of Rhenen staged an enchanting debut for hundreds of long-awaited admirers on Tuesday afternoon.
After six weeks in quarantine since their arrival on April 12, Wu Wen, the female giant panda, made tentative steps into her outdoor enclosure. Nonchalant at the gaze of dozens of children, she threw herself at the first bamboo plant she saw and started to gormandize.
"What an appetite! Will she eat up all the bamboos planted in the enclosure in one week?" one child asked.
"No worry. She has plenty of bamboos stocked in her room. This is only for amusement," answered his pal.
Xing Ya, the male, strided out of his court like an emperor inspecting his new territory. He patrolled the grassland, tested a shallow rig, pawed the wooden wall and tried to climb up a trunk which defied his heavy body.
Abandoning the disobeying tree, he enthroned himself on a rock to enjoy early summer sunshine. With a lofty disdain, he solemnly greeted a full circle of cameras and mobile phones marvelling at him.
"Both are in perfect health and adapt well to their new home," said Zhang Hongwen, chief economist of China's State Forestry Administration.
Wu Wen and Xing Ya, both three-and-a-half-year-old, will stay at Ouwenhands for 15 years. Native to south central China, they belong to a conservation reliant vulnerable species which count only 1,864 individuals.
"I am glad to see that Wu Wen and Xing Ya are so popular in the Netherlands. Living at this wonderful residence in Chinese palace style, they are really treated as emperor and empress," said Zhang.
"Their stay will surely boost Sino-Dutch cooperation relating to the protection of forestry and bio-diversity," he added.
For Martijn van Dam, Dutch State Secretary for Economic Affairs, "the Netherlands has already enclosed Wu Wen and Xing Ya in its heart".
"Through an intensive program, China has succeeded to stop the decline of the number of pandas. China also makes efforts to maintain the natural habitat of the giant pandas. We would also like to contribute to that," he said.
"From today on, Dutch children will get to know Wu Wen and Xing Ya....They can get inspired by all the beautiful and powerful things nature has to offer. Hopefully, new nature protectors will arise here at this place."
The Dutch official hailed 45 years of good cooperation between his country and China.