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Pandas sent by China arrive in Qatar ahead of World Cup

AL KHOR, QATAR (AP) – A pair of giant pandas sent as a gift from China arrived in Qatar on Wednesday ahead of next month’s World Cup.

They will take up residence in an indoor enclosure in the desert nation designed to duplicate conditions in the dense forests of China’s mountainous Sichuan province. Eight hundred kilogrammes of fresh bamboo will be flown in each week to feed them.

Jing Jing, a four-year-old male weighing 120 kilogrammes, has been given the Arabic name Suhail, and three-year-old female Si Hai, at 70 kilogrammes, has been given the Arabic name Thuraya.

The pandas will quarantine for at least 21 days before visitors will be allowed to see them.

Qatar is expecting some 1.2 million visitors for the monthlong World Cup beginning on November 20. The gas-rich Gulf nation will be the first Muslim or Arab country to host the world’s biggest sporting event.

Director of Al Wabra Wildlife Preservation Tim Bouts said that in addition to providing the perfect indoor climate for the pandas, the enclosure will also shield them from stressful noises while allowing them to interact with visitors. “There was a lot of thinking which went into this building to make it, I think, the best building for pandas in the world,” he said.

Suhail, a male Panda sent by China to Qatar as a gift for the World Cup, walks in his shelter at the Panda House Garden in Al Khor, near Doha, Qatar. PHOTO: AP