JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — Giant pandas Cai Tao and Hu Chun arrived Thursday to fanfare in Indonesia where a new “palace” like home that cost millions of dollars has been built for them.
The male and female pair landed at Jakarta’s international airport from Chengdu and will be quarantined at Taman Safari zoo outside the capital for about a month before the public can visit.
The zoo hopes the 7-year-olds will mate and add to the giant panda population. It’s built a special enclosure and facilities that cost about 60 billion rupiah ($4.5 million), Taman Safari President Tony Sumampouw told The Associated Press.
There are less than 1,900 giant pandas in their only wild habitats in the Chinese provinces of Sichuan, Shaanxi and Gansu.
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China gifted friendly nations with its national mascot in what was known as “panda diplomacy” for decades.
Countries now pay to be loaned pandas but they remain a potent symbol of Chinese soft power at a time when Beijing is seeking Southeast Asia cooperation for its ambitions plans to create a modern-day Silk Road that enhances its economic and political clout.
Zoo spokesman Yulius Suprihardo said the living quarters for Cai Tao, the male, and Hu Chun, the female, resemble a three-tier temple.
It’s on a hill surrounded by about 5,000 square meters of land and equipped with an elevator, sleeping area, medical facilities and indoor and outdoor play areas.
He said after the quarantine period a “soft launch” for public viewing could be held by late October or early November.
“During this time we can only see the adorable pandas from images, videos or television. In the near future, Indonesian people can see panda directly,” Suprihardo said. “And we hope they can breed here, that’s part of our goal.”