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Chinese pandas get zoo enclosure fit for a queen's reception

Published
Denmark's Queen Margrethe opens the Panda House in Copenhagen Zoo, Wednesday April 10, 2019. The Queen opened a newly built, 160-million kroner ($24.2-million) enclosure at Copenhagen’s zoo for two freshly arrived occupants: a pair of black-and-white bears on loan from China as the Scandinavian nation becomes part of Beijing's so-called

COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) — Two panda bears on an extended loan from China were welcomed Wednesday to their new house in Copenhagen during a ceremony fit for Denmark's queen.

Queen Margrethe inaugurated the Panda House built for Zoo Copenhagen's new residents, who arrived last week in cargo containers under China's popular "panda diplomacy" initiative.

The 160-million kroner ($24.2 million) enclosure, designed by Danish architect Bjarke Engels in the shape of a yin-yang symbol, is located in the heart of the zoo and features a panda-themed restaurant.

The 78-year-old queen untied a red velvet ribbon to officially welcome 6-year-old male Xing Er, and Mao Sun, a 5-year-old female, to their Danish accommodations. The public will be able to see the pandas for the first time on Thursday.

"Congratulations to all of us. We now have two pandas in a fabulous enclosure that we can look at for many, many years," Margrethe said.

They are to be separated and brought together again during the mating season. Xing Er replaced another male panda China originally picked to go to Denmark after it was discovered he couldn't procreate.

China has lent out pandas as a sign of goodwill to fewer than two dozen nations. Any cubs born during the 15-year loan period are considered China's.

The bears are "national treasures of China and symbol of peace," the Chinese Ambassador to Denmark, Deng Ying, said Wednesday.

In February 2018, China loaned two pandas to Finland. Two others arrived in June 2017 at Berlin's Tierpark zoo, where the first visitors were German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Chinese President Xi Jinping.

The best-known case of panda diplomacy was in 1972, when a arrived in the U.S., two months after President Richard Nixon's trip to China, ending 25 years of isolation and tension between the two.

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This version corrects the year the pandas arrived in Finland to 2018, spelling of the male panda's name to Xing Er, not Zing Er.

People dressed in panda costumes demonstrate in front of the zoo in Copenhagen, Wednesday, April 10, 2019. Denmark's Queen Margrethe opened a newly built, 160-million kroner ($24.2-million) enclosure at Copenhagen’s zoo for two freshly arrived occupants: a pair of black-and-white bears on loan from China as the Scandinavian nation becomes part of Beijing's so-called
In this picture taken trough a window female panda Men Meng eats bamboo at its enclosure at the Zoo in Berlin, Germany, Friday, April 5, 2019. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)
The boxes carrying two Giant Pandas named Xing Er and Mao Sun is unloaded from the plane on its arrival at Copenhagen Airport, Thursday April 4, 2019. (Liselotte Sabroe/Ritzau Scanpix via AP)
In this picture taken trough a window female panda Men Meng eats bamboo at its enclosure at the Zoo in Berlin, Germany, Friday, April 5, 2019. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)
In this picture taken trough a window female panda Men Meng eats bamboo at its enclosure at the Zoo in Berlin, Germany, Friday, April 5, 2019. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)
Denmark's Queen Margrethe opens the Panda House in Copenhagen Zoo, Wednesday April 10, 2019. The Queen opened a newly built, 160-million kroner ($24.2-million) enclosure at Copenhagen’s zoo for two freshly arrived occupants: a pair of black-and-white bears on loan from China as the Scandinavian nation becomes part of Beijing's so-called
Denmark's Queen Margrethe opens the Panda House in Copenhagen Zoo, Wednesday April 10, 2019. The Queen opened a newly built, 160-million kroner ($24.2-million) enclosure at Copenhagen’s zoo for two freshly arrived occupants: a pair of black-and-white bears on loan from China as the Scandinavian nation becomes part of Beijing's so-called "panda diplomacy." (Mads Claus Rasmussen/Ritzau Scanpix via AP)
People dressed in panda costumes demonstrate in front of the zoo in Copenhagen, Wednesday, April 10, 2019. Denmark's Queen Margrethe opened a newly built, 160-million kroner ($24.2-million) enclosure at Copenhagen’s zoo for two freshly arrived occupants: a pair of black-and-white bears on loan from China as the Scandinavian nation becomes part of Beijing's so-called
People dressed in panda costumes demonstrate in front of the zoo in Copenhagen, Wednesday, April 10, 2019. Denmark's Queen Margrethe opened a newly built, 160-million kroner ($24.2-million) enclosure at Copenhagen’s zoo for two freshly arrived occupants: a pair of black-and-white bears on loan from China as the Scandinavian nation becomes part of Beijing's so-called "panda diplomacy." (Claus Bech/Ritzau Scanpix via AP)
The boxes carrying two Giant Pandas named Xing Er and Mao Sun is unloaded from the plane on its arrival at Copenhagen Airport, Thursday April 4, 2019. (Liselotte Sabroe/Ritzau Scanpix via AP)
The boxes carrying two Giant Pandas named Xing Er and Mao Sun is unloaded from the plane on its arrival at Copenhagen Airport, Thursday April 4, 2019. (Liselotte Sabroe/Ritzau Scanpix via AP)