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The twins’ big adventure

Mei Lun’s and Mei Huan’s next adventure
Wednesday, October 19, 2016

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.

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