Bai Yun and her son Xiao Liwu have safely arrived at their new home in China, after years of living at the San Diego Zoo.
On Thursday, the giant pandas were ceremonially welcomed to the China Giant Panda Conservation Research Center, located in Dujiangyan in central China. Zoo and research center officials spoke at the event. Local children sang and danced.
The pandas had been examined upon arrival at the airport by veterinary and animal care staff, according to a statement from the research center.
“They confirmed that there is no serious stress reaction and both pandas were doing well,” the statement said. “After the giant panda veterinary expert checked the pandas again, the enthusiastic staff unloaded the transport cage in an orderly manner, and patiently guided the giant pandas into the isolation quarantine areas.”
The zoo and the research center have worked together for 23 years to understand the mysteries of panda reproduction and successful cub rearing. Their relationship has yielded prolific results.
Bai Yun has raised six cubs at the zoo. An elderly matriarch at 27, she is past breeding age and will be entering panda retirement.
Xiao Liwu, by contrast is 6, still young for a panda. Unlike his mother, who was born in China, Xiao Liwu was born at the zoo.
Whether born in China or elsewhere, all pandas are considered property of China. They’re sent on loan, under the condition that they will be returned to China.
While the zoo now has no pandas, it has said discussions are under way on another potential loan.
Zoo staff accompanied the pandas, as they did last year when returning Gao Gao, of unknown age but also elderly in panda years.
Gao Gao is the natural sire of five of Bai Yun’s offspring. The first was conceived through artificial insemination with sperm from Shi Shi, the zoo’s previous panda patriarch.
For the past six years, zoogoers have watched Bai Yun raise her last cub and followed his maturation. Panda mothers are very protective of their offspring at first. But when they grow old enough to become independent, the young leave, or are forced away by their mother.
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