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February 6, 2010

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US-born panda pair arrives in China

TWO American-born giant pandas arrived in China by special cargo jet yesterday afternoon and enjoyed a welcoming ceremony.

The 3-year-old female Mei Lan and 4 1/2-year-old male Tai Shan arrived at Shuangliu International Airport in Chengdu, capital of Sichuan Province, at 4:28pm.

The two stars were taken out of the cargo jet and onto a special truck after the jet was disinfected.

The two pandas looked at their hometown people, who had gathered to welcome, through the windows of the truck with curious eyes.

Tai Shan and Mei Lan watched the welcoming ceremony at a distance of some 30 meters, to avoid being disturbed by the loud music and sounds.

Experts said the two were in good condition after the 14-hour journey.

The pandas will be kept under observation to further guarantee their health. They needed a good rest to overcome the jet lag, experts said.

The two cute "goodwill ambassadors" were taken to their new home separately after the welcoming ceremony.

Tai Shan arrived in Ya'an Bifengxia Breeding Base under China Conservation and Research Center for Giant Panda in Sichuan's Wolong Nature Reserve after a 2 1/2 hour journey.

Mei Lan will go to the Chengdu Research Base, which has already started looking for a Chinese-language teacher for her. It's also asked the public to choose a "boyfriend" for her among profiles of male pandas posted online.

After one month of quarantine, the two American-born pandas will began mixing with the other pandas, and at that time giant panda lovers will have a chance to see them.

The two were treated as pop idols in the US, with adoring crowds and television viewers watching as they were loaded onto the China-bound jet.

Millions of people in the US fell in love with the pandas as star attractions at zoo exhibits. Some even watched them grow up via online "panda cams."

Giant pandas have played a symbolic role in Sino-US relations.

The Chinese government gave two pandas to America as gifts in April 1972 after US President Richard Nixon visited China. The couple lived in America for 20 years and died there. Later, a new pair, named Mei Xiang and Tian Tian, were given to the US people. Mei Xiang and Tian Tian are Tai Shan's parents. In Washington, Tai Shan was called a VIP -- a Very Imported Panda.

Tai Shan was born in July 2005 and raised at the National Zoo in Washington, DC.

Mei Lan had been living at Zoo Atlanta since she was born in September 2006. Her parents, Lun Lun and Yang Yang, arrived in Atlanta in November 1999.


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