Category: China-United States

Panda Diplomacy

Tai Shan, a four-year-old male, and Mei Lan, a three-year-old female, beloved by zoo-goers in Washington and Atlanta zoos, where they were born, departed for their ancestral homeland, Chengdu, capital of the south-western province of Sichuan. Here, they will join China’s panda breeding program, whose experts are desperately trying to encourage mating by one of the world’s most endangered species to ensure their survival. The pandas’ departure turned into a major event in the United States. Their last days on U.S. soil saw a flood of visitors who wanted to say farewell to the two animals. “I just hope they can have a good time in China and be able to make their own families,” 10-year-old Kelly Davis from the District of Columbia is quoted as saying in China’s official news agency Xinhua Zoo officials in Washington and Atlanta, who twice postponed the pandas’ departure, expressed mixed feelings. “We’re very proud to have shared Mei Lan’s life to the point where she can now begin making her own contributions to the world’s population of giant pandas,” Atlanta zoo official Rebecca Snyder said. Dozens of media reporters and members of the American public gathered outside the FedEx building at the Dulles International Airport to bid a final adieu to the pandas. Panda toys and pins were especially made for the event, with Tai Shan and Mei Lan’s images on them, along with Chinese and American national flags painted on the plane’s fuselage.  Dubbed the “FedEx Panda Express,” the flight was weeks in the making with and about a hundred staff members involved. The pandas’ luggage included water, 75 kg of bamboo and other items as well as a box of farewell letters from the American public.  

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