Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

2 Panda Cubs to Arrive at Washington Zoo Today

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

2 Panda Cubs to Arrive at Washington Zoo Today

Article excerpt

WOLONG NATURE RESERVE, China -- The red banner in Chinese and English read "Giant Panda Hand-Over Ceremony for Sino-U.S. Cooperative Research," and the gathering yesterday bristled with the cameras and cellphones of Chinese journalists.

Pandas, darlings of American zoos, are celebrities in their home country, too, where only a thousand are believed still living in the wild.

Now, Chinese keepers have said goodbye to two of their favorites, seeing Mei Xiang and Tian Tian trucked away from this chilly mountain park for a flight to Washington and the National Zoo, where they will spend the next decade pampered in luxurious new quarters.

Specially designed crates were built and loaded aboard two trucks for the 90-mile drive to Chengdu Airport. There, the pandas were destined for a Federal Express MD-11 cargo plane for the 17-hour flight to Washington, via Anchorage, where they would go through customs.

Before they were loaded on the trucks, though, Zhang Hemin, director of Wolong's China Research and Conservation Center for the Giant Panda, had some special words at the outdoor farewell ceremony. …

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