SINGAPORE: Singaporeans of all ages gathered at the Singapore Zoo to give a rousing welcome to the giant panda couple, Jia Jia and Kai Kai on Thursday morning.
Armed with paper cut—outs in the shape of panda paws, about 500 students from pre— and primary schools waited eagerly for their arrival from the airport.
At around 10.30am, the giant pandas made their grand entrance to roaring cheers.
Even though the panda lovers couldn’t actually see the pandas, they were just as excited about being there as the gentle giants arrived.
"They are big and cute and fluffy!" exclaimed a young student, referring to the pandas.
The adults were also soaking up the atmosphere.
"I’m joining my daughter with the school to come (to the zoo)," said a parent. "I was so surprised to see the grand receiving ceremony for the pandas."
"I’m very glad they are here," commented another parent. "I think it’s a great bridge between China and Singapore."
The pandas will be quarantined for a month, and then they will be given time to settle into their new home at the River Safari.
Minister of State for Trade and Industry Mr Teo Ser Luck affirmed the popularity of the "celebrity couple".
"I must say that even before they set foot in Singapore, Kai Kai and Jia Jia have already captured the hearts and minds of many Singaporeans, who have been eagerly awaiting their arrival," said Mr Teo.
"I recall when I visited them at the Ya’an Bifengxia Panda Base four months ago, I received so many questions on when they would be coming."
The pandas can be viewed by members of the public at the end of the year.
Singapore is the ninth country to host pandas from China since 1994.
Ms Claire Chiang, who chairs the Wildlife Reserves (Singapore), said there are plans to expand Singapore’s role in the conservation programme.
"Maybe Singapore would host a conference next year during the anniversary of the River Safari, to seriously look at the findings of respective countries. I think we could all learn from one another on the adaptability of the pandas," she said.
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