04/12/2011 15:22 GMT

Crowds At Edinburgh Zoo Greet New Giant Panda Arrivals (Pictures)

Two giant pandas are beginning their new life in Scotland - signalling a "significant chapter" in relations between China and the UK.

Tian Tian and Yang Guang were greeted by hundreds of well-wishers as they arrived at Edinburgh Zoo under police escort, following a 5,000 mile non-stop flight from China.

The eight-year-old breeding pair will stay at the zoo for the next 10 years, where it is hoped they will eventually produce cubs. They are the first giant pandas to live in the UK for 17 years.

Zoo chief executive Hugh Roberts said: "This is the moment we have been waiting for since we first discussed bringing the giant pandas to Edinburgh almost five years ago.

"And while it is tremendously exciting to finally welcome our newest arrivals to their new home here in Edinburgh Zoo, this is just the start of a 10-year project which will allow all of us to understand so much more about these fascinating animals. We see the pandas as catalysts for research, education and conservation - aimed at improving the future for pandas.

"We want to build on the significant momentum and excitement that the pandas have already created, and look forward to a long and fruitful partnership with the many agencies - both in China and the UK - that have helped us to get to where we are today."

Tian Tian, whose name means "sweetie", and Yang Guang, meaning "sunlight", travelled to Scotland on board a specially-chartered flight dubbed the FedEx "Panda Express".

During the trip, they were given an in-flight meal of bamboo, apples, carrots and a special "panda cake". The plane touched down at Edinburgh Airport just after 1pm, and the pair were unloaded to the sound of bagpipes and cheers.

Scottish Secretary Michael Moore, who was at the airport, said: "The arrival of Tian Tian and Yang Guang in Scotland marks another significant chapter in the relationship between China and the UK."