Beijing, Nov 10 (EFE).- The three giant pandas that used to live at the National Zoo in Washington have reached China, state-run news agency Xinhua reported Friday.
Three-year-old giant panda Xiao Qi Ji walks at the Smithsonian National Zoological Park in Washington, DC, US, 27 October 2023. EFE-EPA FILE/MICHAEL REYNOLDS
They will spend a month at the quarantine facility at the Shenshuping panda base in Wolong National Nature Reserve in Sichuan.
A special FedEx flight takes off with Washington DC’s three giant pandas for their 19-hour flight to Beijing, China, at Dulles International Airport in Dulles, Virginia, US, 08 November 2023. EFE-EPA/JIM LO SCALZO
All three giant pandas including Mei Xiang, Tian Tian, and their male cub Xiao Qi Ji arrived shortly before midnight on Thursday at the airport in Sichuan’s Chengdu city aboard a specially equipped FedEx Boeing 777 plane.
A shipping crate containing one of the Washington DC’s three giant pandas is loaded onto a special FedEx flight at Dulles International Airport for their 19-hour flight to Beijing, China, in Dulles, Virginia, US, 08 November 2023. EFE-EPA/JIM LO SCALZO
The pandas arrived in good condition after a long 19-hour flight from Washington, the keepers at the China Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda said.
Shipping crates containing two of the Washington DC’s three giant pandas are loaded onto a special FedEx flight at Dulles International Airport for their 19-hour flight to Beijing, China, in Dulles, Virginia, US, 08 November 2023. EFE-EPA/JIM LO SCALZO
Three giant panda keepers from Washington’s National Zoo accompanied them on the flight.
The news of the pandas’ return was one of the trending topics on Chinese social media on Thursday, with 43 million Internet users expressing joy and excitement at their arrival.
Mei Xiang, 25, and Tian Tian, 26 arrived in 2000 in the US capital, where they had their son Xiao Qi Ji (“Little Miracle”), who was born in 2020 through artificial insemination and will enter the giant panda breeding program when he reaches sexual maturity at between 6 and 7 years.
He was Mei Xiang and Tian Tian’s fourth cub, after Tai Shan, Bao Bao and Bei Bei, who returned to China a few years after their birth.
The agreement between the Washington zoo and China stipulated that Mei Xiang and Tian Tian had to return to the Chengdu conservation center when they were old while the cubs born abroad would return when they turned two to four years.
Unlike previous occasions, when the loan agreement on Chinese pandas to American zoos was usually expanded or renewed, for now there are no plans to send more giant pandas when the few remaining pandas in the US are returned.
The four Chinese pandas now remaining in the US, at the Atlanta Zoo in Georgia state, are also scheduled to depart next year.
The youngest two pandas will leave at the beginning of next year and the other two at the end.
The situation has led some observers to talk about a possible “dismantling” of China’s “panda diplomacy,” which began in the late 1950s, although it was not until 1972 when the first pandas were given to the US after a visit to Beijing by then-president Richard Nixon. EFE