Denmark zoo's $32m panda house draws criticisms

A panda drinking in Copenhagen Zoo's new US$24 million enclosure, which has been front-page news in Denmark over the past weeks. Some opponents believe the pandas, which are on loan from China under a 15-year agreement requiring the host to pay US$1
A panda drinking in Copenhagen Zoo's new US$24 million enclosure, which has been front-page news in Denmark over the past weeks. Some opponents believe the pandas, which are on loan from China under a 15-year agreement requiring the host to pay US$1 million annually, will limit Denmark's willingness to criticise Chinese policy. PHOTO: COPENHAGEN ZOO

COPENHAGEN • It was designed by Mr Bjarke Ingels, the renowned Danish architect, and cost US$24 million (S$32 million) to build.

It was inaugurated by Queen Margrethe II, Denmark's reigning monarch. And it now accommodates a celebrity couple with peculiar eating habits and almost year-round animosity towards each other.

Welcome to Copenhagen Zoo's new panda house.

Officials at the zoo estimate that the combination of animal star power and innovative Danish design will draw an additional 400,000 visitors per year.

But not everyone is a fan of the new house, a circular enclosure in the shape of the yin and yang symbol.

Opponents believe the pandas, which are on loan from China under a 15-year agreement requiring the host to pay US$1 million annually, will limit Denmark's willingness to criticise Chinese policy.

Although the panda house is privately funded, some also object to the project's cost.

 

Shaped like the Chinese symbol representing opposites in balance, the enclosure has two tilting halves.

Visitors can observe the pandas from above, or from a ground-level restaurant where they can dine while watching the male panda at close range.

The pandas have already proven popular - 5,000 people showed up for last Thursday's public opening, double the average attendance on that day - but so has the structure.

At the panda house's inauguration last Wednesday, Mr Mette Bock, Denmark's Culture Minister, said in a speech that this was a project "about friendship".

But outside the zoo, a few dozen protesters dressed in panda suits disagreed.

Ms Cecillie Sita, 19, and Ms Christina Kalesh, 18, said they were protesting because they objected to Denmark "kneeling" before a country that violated human rights.

NYTIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on April 14, 2019, with the headline 'Denmark zoo's $32m panda house draws criticisms'. Print Edition | Subscribe