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Panda Updates from 2016

Giant panda twins’ names to be revealed at 100 Day Celebration on December 12

In one of their biggest milestones yet, the giant panda twins at Zoo Atlanta will receive their names at their 100 Day Naming Celebration on Monday, December 12, 2016.

Zoo Atlanta invited fans around the world to vote on one of seven sets of names supplied by conservation partners in Chengdu, China. Voting opened on November 21 and closed on December 4 with more than 23,400 votes.

The 100 Day Naming Celebration, a Chinese tradition used by Zoo Atlanta following the births of the cubs’ five older brothers and sisters, will open with a special performance by the Wesley International School Choir. Following the highlight of the event – the revealing of the twins’ names – the celebration will conclude with a traditional lion dance by the Chien Hong School of Kung Fu. The twins themselves, who are still working on learning to walk, will not yet be visible to guests on their 100th day. The pair is expected to make their debut in late December or January 2017.

To make a reservation to cover the event, contact Rachel Davis at rdavis@zooatlanta.org. Media should plan to arrive at the Zoo by no later than 9 a.m. Please arrive at the Zoo’s front entrance from Cherokee Avenue. 

The 100 Day Naming Celebration opens to the public at 9:30 a.m. and is free with general admission; free for Zoo Atlanta Members and children under 3. Visit zooatlanta.org to learn more about the event and the seven sets of names in the running. Take a peek at Cub A and Cub B on PandaCam hosted by Animal Planet L!VE on zooatlanta.org/pandacam.


A bamboo bon voyage to Mei Lun and Mei Huan

The first surviving giant panda twins born in the U.S. are en route to China 

Mei Lun and Mei Huan, the first surviving pair of giant panda twins ever born in the U.S., are officially on their way to Chengdu, China, for a new home at the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding. The 3-year-old giant pandas left Atlanta in the early-morning hours of November 3, 2016.

The twins, who are the fourth and fifth Atlanta-born pandas to travel to China, are accompanied by two Zoo Atlanta staff and a considerable amount of panda-particular luggage, including around 375 pounds of bamboo, 8 gallons of water, and 25 pounds of favorite treats, including sugarcane, bananas and giant panda biscuits.

“This is a milestone to be celebrated. While the Zoo Atlanta family and their many fans will miss seeing Mei Lun and Mei Huan in Atlanta, we’re very proud to see two more Atlanta-born giant pandas go to join such an important program,” said Raymond B. King, President and CEO. “It’s a tribute to the success of the Zoo Atlanta giant panda program and to the commitment of our international partners who are helping us save this species.”

Mei Lun and Mei Huan will join one of Zoo Atlanta’s longest and most successful conservation collaborations. Zoo Atlanta has contributed more than $10 million in sustained support for conservation of the species, and eight of the Chinese nature reserves inhabited by wild giant pandas are supported by Zoo Atlanta. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) upgraded the giant panda’s status from “endangered” to “vulnerable” in September 2016, but the species remains heavily reliant on conservation programs. Fewer than 1,900 giant pandas are estimated to remain the wild in China’s Sichuan, Shaanxi and Gansu provinces, where they face continuing threats from habitat fragmentation and habitat loss as a result of deforestation and other human activities. More than 1,200 of China’s remaining wild giant pandas live inside nature reserves like those supported by the Zoo.

Fans from around the world tuned in for Mei Lun’s and Mei Huan’s final days on the Zoo’s PandaCam, and many traveled to join the pair at Zoo Atlanta on October 30, when the twins enjoyed special travel-themed enrichment surprises, including a giant passport, globes and a “China or Bust” banner celebrating the duo’s milestone transition to a future at the Chengdu Research Base, where their parents, Lun Lun and Yang Yang, were born, and where their older brothers and sister, Mei Lan, Xi Lan and Po, now reside.

Giant pandas are a solitary species and are weaned from their mothers by the time they are around 18 months old. Mei Lun and Mei Huan have been living apart from their mother since February 2015 and at 3 years old, are ready for this next step in terms of both their age and behavior.

Lun Lun’s and Yang Yang’s youngest offspring, a new set of female twins born September 3, 2013, will follow in their older siblings’ footsteps as they begin to achieve many important milestones of their own. The 2-month-old twins, who can currently be seen on PandaCam hosted by Animal Planet L!VE at zooatlanta.org/pandacam, are expected to make their debut in December 2016 or January 2017. Like Mei Lun and Mei Huan before them, the twins will be named in accordance with the Chinese 100 Day tradition on their 100th day on December 12, 2016.

Stay tuned to Zoo Atlanta Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for social media updates on Mei Lun’s and Mei Huan’s travels, and visit zooatlanta.org for blog posts on the giant pandas. Visit the cubs’ father, Yang Yang, at the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation Giant Panda Conservation Center.


Departure date set for giant pandas Mei Lun and Mei Huan

3-year-old twins will depart Atlanta for China on November 3 

Mei Lun and Mei Huan, the first surviving pair of giant panda twins ever born in the U.S., will depart Atlanta on November 3, 2016, for the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding in China. In one of the most important milestones in the life of an American-born panda, the twins, now 3 years old, will follow in the footsteps of their older siblings as they prepare to journey to their parents’ birthplace.

As is the case at all four U.S. zoos housing the species, the giant pandas at Zoo Atlanta are on loan from China. As part of the Zoo’s loan agreement, all of the offspring of adult pair Lun Lun and Yang Yang eventually travel to China when they are of age. Mei Lun and Mei Huan, who will be the fourth and fifth Zoo Atlanta-born pandas to make the trip, will be accompanied on their flight by two Zoo Atlanta staff.

“Zoo Atlanta is proud and honored to have been Mei Lun’s and Mei Huan’s stewards for their first three years,” said Raymond B. King, President and CEO. “While it’s always bittersweet to say goodbye, they travel to join the Zoo’s partner in giant panda conservation, the Chengdu Research Base, where they will hopefully make their own contributions to the global population of giant pandas. We invite all of their friends and fans to visit them and celebrate this important next chapter in their lives.”

Giant pandas are a solitary species and are weaned from their mothers by the time they are around 18 months old. Mei Lun and Mei Huan have been living apart from their mother Lun Lun since February 2015 and at 3 years old, are ready for this next step in terms of both their age and behavior.

Giant pandas represent Zoo Atlanta’s most significant long-term financial investment in wildlife conservation. The Zoo has contributed over $10 million in sustained support for wild giant pandas. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) upgraded the giant panda’s status from “endangered” to “vulnerable” in September 2016, but the species remains heavily reliant on conservation programs. Fewer than 1,900 giant pandas are estimated to remain in the wild in China’s Sichuan, Shaanxi and Gansu provinces, where they face continuing threats from habitat fragmentation and habitat loss as a result of deforestation and other human activities. More than 1,200 of China’s remaining wild giant pandas live inside nature reserves, eight of which are supported by Zoo Atlanta.

Mei Lun and Mei Huan will enjoy special travel-themed enrichment surprises in their habitat in The Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation Giant Panda Conservation Center at 1:30 p.m. on Sunday, October 30, during Boo at the Zoo presented by Georgia Natural Gas. Fans can sign Bon Voyage postcards for the pair on Saturday and Sunday, October 29 and 30, from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Catch up with Mei Lun and Mei Huan during #MeiDays on PandaCam hosted by Animal Planet L!VE, Noon to 2 p.m. EST on Tuesdays and Thursdays through November 1 on zooatlanta.org/pandacam. Zoo Atlanta will host a Facebook Live event featuring Mei Lun’s and Mei Huan’s care team on October 27.

Born July 15, 2013, Mei Lun and Mei Huan, whose names originate from a Chinese idiom meaning “something indescribably beautiful and magnificent,” are the fourth and fifth offspring of 19-year-old adults Lun Lun and Yang Yang. The pair’s first offspring, Mei Lan (born September 6, 2006), traveled to China in 2010. Their second and third cubs, Xi Lan (born August 30, 2008) and Po (born November 3, 2010), made the trip in 2014.

Mei Lun’s and Mei Huan’s 6-week-old siblings, a second pair of twins born to Lun Lun on September 3, 2016, remain behind the scenes as they continue to achieve a number of milestones of their own, including opening eyes. The cubs are expected to make their debut in December 2016 or January 2017.


Mei Lun’s and Mei Huan’s next adventure

Visit the 3-year-old twins before they embark on an important new milestone

Mei Lun and Mei Huan, the first pair of surviving giant panda twins ever born in the U.S., will depart Atlanta later this year on their way to one of the most important milestones in the life of an American-born panda: a new chapter at their parents’ birthplace at the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding in China. While their travel date has not yet been set, the 3-year-old bears are currently expected to leave Atlanta in November 2016.

As is the case at all four U.S. zoos housing the species, the giant pandas at Zoo Atlanta are on loan from China. As part of that loan agreement, all of the offspring of adult pair Lun Lun and Yang Yang eventually travel to China when they are of age. Mei Lun and Mei Huan will be the fourth and fifth Zoo Atlanta-born pandas to return to the Chengdu Research Base, the Zoo’s partner in giant panda conservation.

“Mei Lun and Mei Huan have grown up at Zoo Atlanta. The Zoo family and friends around the world have embraced them, and we have been their stewards over three memorable years. In the continuing history of success for the giant panda program at Zoo Atlanta, it’s now their turn for new opportunities and new contributions to a powerful conservation collaboration,” said Raymond B. King, President and CEO. “We’re honored to have shared their formative years, and we’ll now watch with pride as they embark on their young adult years at the Chengdu Research Base, which is an international home base for some of the world’s top experts in caring for and protecting this species.”

Mei Lun and Mei Huan, who have been living apart from their mother Lun Lun since February 2015, are ready for this next step in terms of both age and behavior. Giant pandas are a solitary species and are weaned from their mothers by the time they are around 18 months old.

Born July 15, 2013, Mei Lun and Mei Huan, whose names originate from a Chinese idiom meaning “something indescribably beautiful and magnificent,” are the fourth and fifth offspring of 19-year-old adults Lun Lun and Yang Yang. The pair’s first offspring, Mei Lan (born September 6, 2006), traveled to China in 2010. Their second and third cubs, Xi Lan (born August 30, 2008) and Po (born November 3, 2010), made the trip in 2014.

Giant pandas represent Zoo Atlanta’s most significant long-term financial investment in wildlife conservation. The Zoo has contributed over $10 million in sustained support for wild giant pandas. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) upgraded the giant panda’s status from “endangered” to “vulnerable” in September 2016, but the species remains heavily reliant on conservation programs. Fewer than 1,900 giant pandas are estimated to remain in the wild in China’s Sichuan, Shaanxi and Gansu provinces, where they face continuing threats from habitat fragmentation and habitat loss as a result of deforestation and other human activities. More than 1,200 of China’s remaining wild giant pandas live inside nature reserves, eight of which are supported by Zoo Atlanta.

Mei Lun’s and Mei Huan’s 3-week-old siblings, a second pair of twins born to Lun Lun on September 3, 2016, are achieving milestones of their own, but it will be quite some time before the tiny duo is ready to embark on the new adventure their older sisters will start this fall. The cubs now weigh over a pound each; for now, anticipated milestones for them include opening ears and opening eyes.

Visit Mei Lun and Mei Huan and their father, Yang Yang, in their habitats at The Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation Giant Panda Conservation Center. Lun Lun and the newborns will remain behind-the-scenes until the new cubs are ready to make their debut in December 2016 or January 2017. Tune in to all of the milestones of the Zoo’s giant panda program on PandaCam hosted by Animal Planet L!VE on www.zooatlanta.org/pandacam.

Stay tuned for details on Mei Lun’s and Mei Huan’s departure date and farewell activities.


Black-and-White Friday at Zoo Atlanta

Choose a Black Friday alternative with exclusive single-day discounts on November 25

Choose fresh air and family in the home of Yang Yang the giant panda on the day after Thanksgiving – take a day away from stores, lines and crowds at Black-and-White Friday at Zoo Atlanta.

On Friday, November 25, enjoy 50 percent off up to four children’s general admission tickets with purchase of any single, regularly-priced adult’s general admission ticket. Mention the offer at Zoo Atlanta Admissions to redeem the discount.

Black-and-White Friday visitors will also enjoy a single-day discount on Zoo Atlanta Membership. Visit Member Services or call 404.624.5662 on November 25 to receive $10 off any level of Zoo Membership.

The discounts are valid only on Friday, November 25, 2016, and are not valid online; discounts may not be combined with any other offer or promotion. The Membership offer is not valid for Gift Membership Gift Cards.

Visit zooatlanta.org to plan your visit or to learn more about Zoo animals, programs and experiences.


Giant panda twins born at Zoo Atlanta!

Second birth completes a pair of twins for Lun Lun.

Lun Lun, a 19-year-old giant panda, gave birth to twins on September 3, 2016. Her first cub arrived at 7:20 a.m., followed 47 minutes later by the second of her twins, born at 8:07 a.m. The cubs, the first giant pandas born in the U.S. in 2016, are the second pair of twins for Lun Lun.

Giant pandas exhibit delayed implantation, and the twin cubs developed from two separate eggs. Following the birth of the first cub, the Zoo Atlanta teams continued to await the arrival of the second cub. Although it is possible for giant panda twins to be born as far apart as days, up until the second cub’s birth, there had remained the possibility that the second fetus could be resorbed, or reabsorbed, and would thus not be born. Fetal resorption is not uncommon in giant pandas.

“We’re thrilled and relieved that the second of Lun Lun’s twins has arrived. While we were aware of the possibility that the two might not be born close together, we were also aware of the possibility that the second fetus could be resorbed, resulting in a failed pregnancy,” said Hayley Murphy, DVM, Vice President of Animal Divisions. “Our focus now will be the care and monitoring of the cubs and Lun Lun to ensure that both cubs have the best opportunity to succeed.”

Giant panda cubs, which are born nearly hairless, blind and barely larger than a cell phone, are some of the animal kingdom’s most fragile newborns, and their early days of life are critical. The Animal Management and Veterinary Teams will employ the same cub-swapping method used with success following the births of the cubs’ sisters, Mei Lun and Mei Huan, caring for one cub in a nursery unit while Lun Lun cares for the other. The cubs’ time with their mother will be rotated to ensure that both receive equal amounts of maternal care.

Although twins are not unusual in giant pandas, the risk of infant mortality is higher in twins than in single-cub births. In the wild, giant panda mothers who give birth to twins generally care for only one cub, and it is normal in the wild for only one twin to survive. The cub-swapping approach allows the mother to provide care and feeding for both of her offspring without becoming overexerted.

Lun Lun was artificially inseminated on March 28, 2016, and round-the-clock birthwatch began on August 22, 2016. Since the time of the artificial insemination, the Animal Management and Veterinary Teams have been conducting regular ultrasounds and monitoring Lun Lun’s behavior, as well as monitoring hormone analyses conducted by David Kersey, PhD, an expert in giant panda endocrinology from Western University of Health Sciences. The nursery care team is joined by two colleagues from the Zoo’s partner in giant panda conservation, the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding in China.

Giant pandas represent Zoo Atlanta’s most significant financial investment in conservation. Fewer than 1,900 giant pandas are estimated to remain in the wild in China’s Sichuan, Shaanxi and Gansu provinces, and more than 1,200 of these live inside nature reserves. Support from Zoo Atlanta benefits wild giant pandas living on eight of these reserves. In 2012, Zoo Atlanta and partner organizations, Smithsonian’s National Zoological Park, Memphis Zoo and San Diego Zoo Global, received the International Conservation Award from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) for their commitment to the species. The award recognized exceptional efforts toward giant panda regional habitat preservation, species restoration and support of biodiversity in the wild.

The cubs are the sixth and seventh giant pandas born at Zoo Atlanta. All of Lun Lun’s and Yang Yang’s cubs have been the result of artificial insemination. The pair’s first three offspring, male Mei Lan (born 2006), male Xi Lan (born 2008) and female Po (born 2010), now reside at the Chengdu Research Base. Their fourth and fifth offspring, females Mei Lun and Mei Huan (born 2013), reside at Zoo Atlanta and are now joined by their younger siblings as the only sets of giant panda twins in the U.S.

Zoo Atlanta Members and guests can expect to meet the cubs in December 2016 or January 2017. Their father, 18-year-old Yang Yang, and 3-year-old sisters Mei Lun and Mei Huan remain in their usual habitats and will not be introduced to the cubs. This separation is normal for giant pandas, which are solitary in the wild.

Follow Lun Lun and the cubs on PandaCam hosted by Animal Planet L!VE on zooatlanta.org/pandacam and on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Updates will be provided as they are available.

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