Pandas set to take Malaysia-China ties to greater heights

KUALA LUMPUR - China's decision to send a pair of Giant Pandas to Malaysia is an important goodwill gesture symbolising the harmonious relationship between the two countries, said the Federation of Chinese Associations Malaysia (Hua Zong).

Its president Tan Sri Pheng Yin Huah said he was glad the plan of bringing the mammals here was able to be done within a short period of time.

"They are not just animals, they are treasures of China serving as goodwill ambassadors to Malaysia, symbolising the harmonious relationship and unity between the two countries.

"The Giant Pandas also forge a bridge to strengthen Malaysia-China ties, which was started by the second Prime Minister of Malaysia, Tun Abdul Razak.

"The father initiated the relationship, and now the son - Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak - has strengthened the ties. This means a lot to both countries," he said.

Chinese newspapers reported in April that Malaysia would spend RM20mil for the upkeep of the pandas.

The budget is expected to cover the construction of an air-conditioned sanctuary for the pandas, the import of bamboos from China for their meals as well as to train local handlers for the animals.

On Monday, the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry announced that China had agreed to loan two pandas to Malaysia for 10 years.

An agreement will be signed on Friday.

Malaysians will also get the chance to name the pandas in a nationwide contest.

Separately, a source said Putrajaya Corporation, which is in charge of developing the enclosure for the animals, was in the midst of planning and designing it.

Malaysia will be the third country in the region, after Thailand and Singapore, to receive Giant Pandas from China.

Thailand received a pair of Giant Pandas in 2004, now in the Chiang Mai Zoo, while the Singapore Zoo had two, called An An and Xin Xing on loan from China for 100 days in 1991.

The Giant Panda is the rarest member of the bear family and among the world's most threatened animals.

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