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February 2, 2010

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Panda base to teach its newest arrival Chinese

ATLANTA'S panda princess Mei Lan is expected to start her new life in Chengdu City with a teacher tutoring her to respond to Chinese commands and making friends with a mate to help propagate one of the world's most imperiled species.

Today most of the world's giant pandas - there are only about 1,600 - live in the southwestern mountains of Chengdu, capital of southwest China's Sichuan Province.

The Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding, which produced Mei Lan's parents Lun Lun and Yang Yang, has launched a search to find a qualified volunteer as her Chinese teacher and a Website asking panda fans worldwide to choose a mate for her from dozens of candidates prior to her departure on Thursday from the United States.

Mei Lan, which means "American Orchid" or "Beautiful Orchid," was born at Zoo Atlanta in Georgia on September 6, 2006 and given the name when she was about 100 days old.

With a childhood spent in the US, the Chinese language could confuse Mei Lan and that prompted the breeding base to begin a search for a keeper who spoke both Chinese and English.

Applicants for the job can apply by logging on to

A supply of her favorite US biscuits will help ease her transition to life in China but these will "gradually be replaced by steamed wotou, a Chinese bread made of corn flour," said Huang Xiangming, director of the base's animal management department.


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