By: Mariah Wilson
December 4, 2011 marked a historical day for theUnited Kingdomwhen two giant pandas were presented toScotlandfromChinaas a gift of goodwill. Scotlandhas been without endangered bears in the country since 1994, when their giant panda, Ming Ming, was shipped back toChina. The two Pandas, affectionately known as “Sweetie” and “Sunshine” were transported by FEDEX on an 11 hour flight, which included a personal vet and in-flight meals. The giant pandas traveled in a Boeing 777, flown by four pilots with ‘extensive experience’ and were greeted with Scottish bagpipes as they landed.
The transfer betweenChinaandScotlandtook five years to complete and included negotiations held by Chinese and Scottish officials coupled with input from both British and Scottish royalty. The Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, the charity organization that runs the Edinburgh Zoo where “Sweetie” and “Sunshine” are to call home, commenced talks regarding acquiring a pair of pandas as early as 2006. Over years of negotiations, Scottish officials paired with the China Wildlife Conservative Association and made arrangements for the giant pandas to be flown fromChina. It will take an estimated $70,000 a year to care for the endangered species in their new home.
The transfer of “Sweetie” and “Sunshine” was not the first time that giant pandas were used in as a tool to enhance aUnited Kingdomcountry’s relations withChina. In 1974, British Prime Minister Edward Heath received two giant pandas when he visited the country ofChina. Since the endangered giant panda is a treasure to the Chinese population, receiving the two bears is seen as a special gift in the effort to bring theChinaandUnited Kingdomcommunities together.