01 December 2009

Giant panda-monium to generate more international visitors to Australia

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The arrival of two giant pandas from China for a 10-year stay at an Australian zoo is expected to boost local and international visitors and generate more than £330 million.

Wang Wang, four, and his female companion Funi, three, arrived at Adelaide airport to a VIP welcome last week and are currently in Australia immigration quarantine until December 13 when their new home will be officially opened.

Adelaide Zoo is expected greatly increased visitor numbers for the pandas, the only ones of their kind in the southern hemisphere, and boost national and international tourists to South Australia.

All international visitors, unless they have an Australian or New Zealand passport, must have an Australian Tourist Visa. The most popular of these Australian visas is the ETA Visa, which allows the holder to remain in the country for up to three months for tourism purposes and is quick to apply for online.

It is hoped that the two pandas will become the first breeding pair in the southern hemisphere, and Adelaide Zoo has an excellent record of successfully breeding endangered animals.

Wang Wang and Funi have been genetically matched, and their cubs would benefit the global panda population.

Officials estimate that Wang Wang and Funi could generate more than AU$600 million (£330m) for the South Australian economy during their decade-long stay.

Chinese President Hu Jintao offered the pandas as a goodwill gesture to Australia in 2007.

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