The giant pandas Si Hai and Jing Jing will stay at the Panda House in Qatar for fifteen years. In October, Qatar became the first Middle Eastern country to receive Chinese giant pandas.
The Chinese government sent the three-year-old female Si Hai and four-year-old male Jing Jing -their Arabic names are Suhail and Thuraya- as a gift to mark the World Cup that started on November 20. China did not qualify for the event but is a significant customer of Qatar’s natural gas.
In the Panda House, the pandas have their separate quarters. Zhou Jian, China’s ambassador to Qatar, said the new complex was “world-class, magnificent and comfortable”. The habitat was built over two years, with strict specifications to provide the pandas with a comfortable environment.
“Really, we left nothing to chance, so we have great temperature control. It’s not the same the whole year round. We follow the temperatures like you have them in Sichuan in China. We look at humidity,” zoological director at the Panda House, Tim Bouts, told news agency Reuters.
Giant pandas are only found in the wild in China, where they live in nature reserves in their native mountains and bamboo forests. Since the 1950s, China has been loaning pandas to foreign zoos, so-called panda diplomacy. Animal rights organizations have questioned the practice of ‘gifting animals’.