U.S. zoos sending pandas to China
Two beloved giant pandas are leaving the United States for China on Thursday.
Three-year-old Mei Lan will depart Zoo Atlanta in Georgia, officials said. Her 4-year-old male cousin, Tai Shan, will leave Washington's National Zoo.
"It's very bittersweet. We love him. We love having him here," said Erika Bauer, curator at the National Zoo in Washington.
The pandas, considered on loan from China, are being repatriated to help replenish the endangered species' numbers. They will eventually take part in a breeding program in China. The National Zoo estimates that 1,600 giant pandas are left in the wild.
Kathleen Ryland of Highland, Maryland, brought her children to say goodbye to the Washington giant panda.
"We watched him as he grew up, and it's kind of sad to see him go," Ryland said.
A panda breeding center that one of the pandas is heading to was preparing, according to the newspaper China Daily.
Officials at the center were already searching for a mate for Mei Lan, the paper reported.
They were also searching for a Chinese language teacher so that Mei Lan could be taught to understand when she is told in Chinese to return to her cage.
"Mei Lan has been living in the United States since she was born, and she must be unfamiliar with Chinese, especially the Sichuan dialect," Huang Xiangming, a director of the breeding center told the paper.
Tai Shan is headed to a different facility in Sichuan province.
PANDAS ARE CELEBRITIES, also it's early in the morning, whatever
here is a picture I took of...one of them next to some poop.