Panda Diplomacy: Two Bears Arrive From China

The black & white bears will live in a specially constructed new habitat at Ähtäri Zoo and hopefully produce babies in the coming years.

Two giant pandas, Pyry and Lumi, arrive at Helsinki Airport from China / Credit: @ahtarizoo Instagram

Two giant pandas have arrived in Finland, where they’ll spend the next 15 years under a loan scheme from the Chinese government.

Lumi (Snow) and Pyry (Blizzard) landed on a cargo flight in Helsinki, where they were greeted by an official delegation including the Chinese Ambassador and the Minister of Agriculture. The bears were checked by a veterinarian before continuing to their new enclosure at Ähtäri Zoo.

The pandas had to wait for 90 minutes while border formalities connected to their import were carried out.

Sitting in transparent transport boxes, the pandas were pulled on a tractor to see the media, and looked curiously at the snow-covered airport.

Several dozen journalists from Finland and China had gathered to see the bears, and flash photography was forbidden, in case it disturbed the animals.

Aätäri’s panda expert Jukka Salo said the bears had traveled from China with no problems.

This evening, around a thousand people waited to greet the pandas on arrival at Aähtari Zoo.

“Pandas don’t fuss much, but just chew on bamboo and wait patiently for the next step” said zoo intendant Mauno Seppäkoski prior to their arrival.

Lumi, in China before coming to Finland / Credit: Ähtäri Zoo

New Habitat

The pandas will be settling into a specially-constructed habitat at Ähtäri Zoo before being on display to the public.

The new enclosure has two separate living areas because pandas are solitary animals, and so Lumi and Pyry will stay apart for most of the year, but come together during the female’s short 72 mating season.

Each animal will enjoy 200 square metres of indoor living space, and 4000 square metres of outdoor gardens to roam in, with terrain that looks like their natural habitat.

“We’ve built an environment that resembles the Himalayan mountain habitat as closely as possible. Indoors, there’s a small stream, and plants like cycads and clivias; outdoors, there are pine trees, rocks, grass, climbing frames and a large water system,” said Seppäkoski.

High Ticket Prices

If you want to see the pandas, tickets are already on sale to visit them from the middle of February.

However the costs are high. A family of four will pay more than €90 to see Lumi and Pyry.

This is a sharp contrast with other zoos in Europe that have pandas. At Berlin Zoo for example, a family of four can visit their two pandas for only €46. And at Edinburgh Zoo, the tickets would cost €65.