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A Bamboo Bon Voyage To The Pandas

ATLANTA – November 3, 2016 – 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.

MEDIA CONTACT:

Rachel Davis Director of Communications

404.624.2812 – office

404.309.2238 – cell

rdavis@zooatlanta.org

Gavin Johnson Public Relations & Communications Specialist

404.624.5980 – office

gjohnson@zooatlanta.org

About the giant panda program at Zoo

Atlanta The giant panda program at Zoo Atlanta dates to the mid-1990s, prior to the debut of giant panda pair Lun Lun and Yang Yang, who arrived in 1999 on loan from China. Zoo Atlanta initiated its giant panda loan with its primary Chinese partners, the Chinese Association of Zoological Gardens (CAZG), the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding and the Chengdu Zoo. Zoo Atlanta scientists developed a program focused on using behavioral and veterinary research to understand, support, and lengthen maternal care; improve reproductive success and well-being; understand giant pandas’ cognitive and perceptual abilities; and improve health, including preventative medicine. Zoo Atlanta’s relationship with the Chengdu Research Base and Chengdu Zoo also led to the creation of conservation education departments at these institutions – the first of their kind in Chinese zoos. In 2012, Zoo Atlanta and partners Smithsonian’s National Zoological Park, Memphis Zoo and San Diego Zoo Global earned the prestigious International Conservation Award from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) for their long-term commitment to the species. To date, seven giant panda cubs have been born at Zoo Atlanta: Mei Lan (2006); Xi Lan (2008); Po (2010); Mei Lun and Mei Huan (2013); and Lun Lun’s newest cubs, twins born on September 3, 2016. Mei Lan, Xi Lan and Po currently reside at the Chengdu Research Base.

About Zoo Atlanta

Viewed as one of the finest zoological institutions in the U.S. and a proud accredited member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), Zoo Atlanta has a mission to inspire value and preservation of wildlife through a unique mix of education and outdoor family experiences. From well-known native wildlife to critically endangered species on the brink of extinction, the Zoo offers memorable close encounters with more than 1,000 animals from around the world. The Zoo’s newest destination, Scaly Slimy Spectacular: The Amphibian and Reptile Experience, featuring more than 70 species in a 111,000 square-foot complex, opened in 2015 and is the world’s first LEED Gold-certified reptile and amphibian exhibit. Zoo highlights include giant pandas, including twins born to Lun Lun on September 3, 2016, and expected to make their debut in December 2016 or January 2017.; North America’s largest zoological population of great apes; and a global center of excellence for the care and study of reptiles and amphibians. Up-close-and-personal animal experiences include behind-the-scenes Wild Encounters with African elephants, Aldabra giant tortoises, lemurs and warthogs. Zoo Atlanta is open daily with the exceptions of Thanksgiving and Christmas Day. Keeper talks, interactive wildlife shows, education programs and special events run year-round. For more information, visit zooatlanta.org

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