CANBERRA – Giant pandas Wang Wang and Funi will provide a 600 million dollars (555 million U.S. dollars) boost to the South Australian economy during their 10-year stay in Adelaide, Zoo officials say.

The pandas are due to arrive in Adelaide on Saturday and will be worth more in tourism and other economic benefits than both cycling legend Lance Armstrong and golfing great Tiger Woods.

Zoos South Australia chief executive Chris West said based on the formula used by the tourism industry the pandas were expected to generate 632 million dollars over the next decade.

That would include accommodation and hospitality by 1.5 million visitors, Adelaide Zoo revenues and the creation of 330 new jobs.

“There are 32 pandas in 12 zoos in eight countries in the world today but none anywhere else in the southern hemisphere,” Dr. West said.

“We are expecting huge numbers of Australian visitors, the vast majority of whom will have never seen a live panda.”

Dr. West said the arrival of giant pandas in North America and Europe had resulted in very significant increases in the global profile of the zoos and their host cities.

“Environmental tourism is rapidly becoming a major economic factor around the world, and the pandas are universally recognized as the ultimate ambassadors for conservation.”