Two giant pandas will soon arrive at Edinburgh Zoo, Scotland, following a deal signed in London yesterday, Jan. 10, between the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS) and the Chinese Wildlife Conservation Association.
The agreement was one of several witnessed by Nick Clegg, U.K. Deputy Prime Minister, and Li Keqiang, China's Vice Premier. Overall the negotiations are worth £2.6 billion, and include plans for a joint deep-water exploration of the South China Sea between BP and the China National Offshore Oil Corporation, and to increase Jaguar Land Rover sales in China this year.
The pair of pandas will be loaned to the zoo for a decade. Their names are Tian Tian and Yangguang, meaning Sweetie and Sunshine, and they are both seven years old.
"This is a landmark day for RZSS, Edinburgh Zoo, the UK and China," said David Windmill, CEO of RZSS, in a statement. "It represents the beginning of a programme of research, education and partnership and the project has huge benefit for the UK and Scotland, both in supporting giant panda conservation and in enhancing our programmes in education, science and conservation."
However, the panda deal was criticized by science and research manager Ross Minett, from animal charity OneKind in a statement on its website.
Minnett pointed out the "serious animal welfare concerns" of transporting the bears from their native China to live in a zoo, describing the prospect as "outlandish."
"This is a commercial deal: the animals may appear to be diplomatic gifts—an outdated concept in itself—but in fact the zoo will pay a substantial fee for the lease of these animals," Minett said.
"International conservation organizations like the World Wide Fund for Nature favour an approach that protects the panda's habitat and allows the natural population to grow, and if Edinburgh Zoo is serious about conservation it should be throwing its support behind local projects in China."