So this is Hong Kong. Where's the bamboo?

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 30 April, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 30 April, 2009, 12:00am

Four furry red pandas and other rare species from the mainland received an official welcome yesterday as a bow-tie-less Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen toured their brand-new home at Ocean Park.

Munching on bamboo and clambering over rocks, the baby red pandas were oblivious to the arrival of the chief executive at the Amazing Asian Animals exhibit.

'They're young. They're eight months old,' Ocean Park chairman Allan Zeman told Mr Tsang.

The two males, Tai Shan and Cong Cong, are bigger than their female counterparts, Rou Rou and Li Zi. Cong Cong's hair is more shiny and red while Tai Shan, or 'Tarzan', is particularly playful and alert. Rou Rou tends to tilt her head when looking at her handlers and Li Zi's face resembles a chestnut.

Mr Zeman was still working on telling them apart. They arrived from the Chengdu Research Base of Panda Breeding about a month ago.

Red pandas, which are generally nocturnal and solitary animals, are listed under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora and are a protected species on the mainland.

Two of their better-known cousins, giant pandas, also took up residence at Amazing Asian Animals recently, along with Chinese giant salamanders, Chinese alligators, otters, goldfish, birds and turtles.

The new attraction cost more than HK$100 million and is part of the park's HK$5.5 billion redevelopment plan.

There will also be new facilities for rare Chinese sturgeon.

More of the rare fish were expected to arrive at the park this summer after some died at the park or were returned to the mainland after falling ill, Mr Zeman said.

Amazing Asian Animals opens to the public today, on the eve of the long Labour Day weekend, which is a major mainland holiday.

Mr Zeman said he was hopeful record-breaking attendance so far this year would continue despite fears about the spread of swine flu.

Ocean Park has face masks available for staff and visitors as well as disinfecting stations.