Harper says China will lend panda pair to Canada

By the Associated Press | February 11, 2012 | 4:35 AM EST

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper looks on as his wife Laureen holds a Panda in Chongqing, China Saturday Feb. 11, 2012. Two giant pandas will call Canada home for the next 10 years. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Adrian Wyld)

BEIJING (AP) — Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper has wrapped up a visit to China aimed at boosting oil sales by announcing that Beijing will loan two of the country's prized giant pandas to Canadian zoos.

The Canadian Press reported that Harper visited a zoo in the southwestern city of Chongqing Saturday to say that the Chinese government is loaning the panda pair to Canada for the next 10 years. They will go to the Toronto and Calgary zoos for five years each.

News photos showed Harper looking on as his wife carried a squirming baby panda.

The news agency says the pandas are expected to arrive in Canada early next year.

The giant panda is unique to China and is regularly sent abroad as a sign of warm diplomatic relations or to mark breakthroughs in ties.