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Myanmar unveils zoo in remote new capital

Myanmar's military rulers opened a zoo in their new capital Naypyidaw yesterday, bringing a rare attraction to the isolated city which emerged from scrubland in 2005.
About 420 animals including rare wallabies, white tigers and penguins were moved from the former seat of government Yangon in February and trucked to the 612-acre (247-hectare) Naypyidaw Zoological Gardens.
"We are very proud as we have constructed this international standard zoological garden within seven months," Tin Aung Myint Oo, a senior junta member, said in his opening speech.
"Not only local visitors, but also foreign tourists can study here," he told gathered ministers, diplomats and junta officials.
He did not explain how foreign tourists — currently banned from the new capital by the secretive generals — would visit the zoo, which is on the Yangon-Mandalay highway about 400 kilometres (250 miles) north of Yangon.
About half of the animals residing in the 102-year-old Yangon Zoological Gardens including elephants, crocodiles, tigers, deer, leopards and monkeys were loaded into trucks and driven up to Naypyidaw.
"No animal was killed when transferring them from Yangon to Naypyidaw. All are in good health now. They are enjoying it here," a senior official at the new zoo said.
Tens of thousands of people flocked from nearby villages to visit the zoo, which was free to the public on its opening day.
"We are very happy. We have never been to a zoo before," said a 50-year-old woman from a nearby village as she queued in hot weather with her children.
"This is a good chance for us to see animals. Now I'm waiting to see the white tigers."
But some at the opening ceremony worried that the oppressive heat of central Myanmar might not suit the menagerie.
"The weather is so hot here," said one Yangon-based diplomat. "I am worried whether the animals can stay in this weather. They will have to plant many trees for the animals here."
The military regime surprised the world in 2005 by suddenly shifting its capital from Yangon to this remote town in the mountains.
Since then Naypyidaw's population has grown to more than 900,000 people, according to official statistics. Residents are mostly government and military officials ordered to move from Yangon.
The city will be site of a grand military parade on Thursday to mark Armed Forces Day.