China welcomes ‘precious’ US-born panda Bao Bao

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 23 February, 2017, 1:48pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 04 October, 2017, 3:42pm

China welcomed American-born giant panda Bao Bao at the airport in Chengdu, southwestern Sichuan province, on Wednesday evening.

The 3.5-year-old panda had travelled 16 hours in a Boeing 777 emblazoned with a picture of a giant bamboo-eating panda, to Chengdu after leaving Dulles International Airport in Virginia on Tuesday.

The panda, which had been born and raised in the National Zoo of Washington, was accompanied by two keepers and a veterinarian.

Bao Bao was warmly welcomed by dozens of Chinese people at the Chengdu airport.

Transported to the nearby Dujiangyan panda breeding base, Bao Bao emerged from her crate looking somewhat timid and curious, but soon settled in with a snack of fresh bamboo, according to a news release from the China Conservation and Research Centre for Giant Pandas.

A 100-square metre enclosure had been prepared for her at the base, including both indoor and outdoor play areas, equipped with rubber balls and a tires swing for entertainment and fresh bamboo and apples for eating.

Bao Bao, whose name means “precious” or “treasure,” will first go through a month-long quarantine at the Dujiangyan base, the research centre said.

“The public will be able to see Bao Bao after she is given a clean bill of health following her quarantine,” Tang Cheng, Bao Bao’s keeper during her quarantine, told the state-run Xinhua news agency.

Keepers would monitor her diet, activities and health during that time, including checking her blood and feces, the research centre said.

They would also work on helping Bao Bao adapt to local bamboo and Chinese steamed bread made from corn, soybeans, rice and eggs, Xinhua reported.

Bao Bao’s mother Mei Xiang and father Tian Tian were loaned to the American zoo in 2000 under an agreement between China and the United States.

Special delivery: US-born panda cub Bao Bao bound for China

According to the agreement, panda cubs born in the US to parents on loan from China must be returned to the mainland before they reach four years old for breeding and research purposes.

Bao Bao is the 11th overseas-born panda to return to China.

The giant panda is classified as a “vulnerable” species on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List.