Two more giant pandas for Ocean Park

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 30 December, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 30 December, 2006, 12:00am

Hong Kong will get two new pandas next year, Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen announced yesterday in Beijing.

He said that more details would be forthcoming but did not respond to questions on whether the pandas would be given to Hong Kong to coincide with celebrations to mark the 10th anniversary of the handover.

The arrival of the pair will double the number of pandas at Ocean Park, which is already home to An An, 19, and Jia Jia, 28.

Jia Jia is one of the oldest pandas in captivity and has exceeded the average lifespan of 24. Beijing has agreed to replace them if either of the pair dies.

An An, a male, and Jia Jia, a female, were sent to Hong Kong in 1997 to mark the handover.

Ocean Park chairman Allan Zeman welcomed the news. 'This is good for Ocean Park and Hong Kong.'

News of the additions was largely expected as the marine park had asked the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office of the State Council for two young pandas in October last year. The park wants to expand its Panda House as part of an ambitious expansion plan.

Giant pandas are regarded as a national treasure and are often used as gifts to foreign countries and as diplomatic pawns. In April, Beijing offered two pandas to Taiwan but the gesture was turned down.