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German-born pandas arrive in Chengdu

China Daily | Updated: 2023-12-18 09:31
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Twins sent to scientific research and breeding base after farewell in Berlin

Four-year-old panda twins Meng Xiang and Meng Yuan, the first giant pandas born in Germany, arrived in Chengdu, Sichuan province, on Sunday, the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding said.

After a farewell ceremony at Zoo Berlin earlier this month attended by visitors, the pandas were put on a flight to China on Saturday afternoon. Staff members from the German zoo accompanied the twins on the flight.

As agreed to by China and Germany, the twins were sent to the Chengdu base, an institution for panda scientific research and breeding.

"The birth of the first giant pandas in Germany was not only a personally moving experience, but also a highlight in my professional career as a zoo veterinarian and zoo director that nothing will easily eclipse," said Andreas Knieriem, the head of Zoo Berlin.

Born on Aug 31, 2019, the panda twins had their fourth birthday this summer. In 2017, the twins' parents Meng Meng and Jiao Qing were sent to Berlin from Chengdu, and were the only two giant pandas in Germany at the time.

At birth, the twins were as light as a bar of chocolate and were dependent on their mother's care, according to the zoo.

The twins have "brought Berliners and many tourists a lot of joy in recent years", said Berlin Mayor Kai Wegner at the farewell ceremony. "It's time to say goodbye."

Zoo Berlin recently released a collection of video footage on social media platforms showing the twins' growth over the past four years.

The zoo also launched a campaign to collect paintings and illustrations of the twin pandas. Fans in Germany sent their submissions this month, which were sent to China along with the twins.

Zoo Berlin said it will not be too hard for the panda parents to be without the twins as they have been living separately for two years.

The period between one and three years is the most active stage of a giant panda's development when they spend most of their time playing, exploring, and climbing trees. Captive male giant pandas become sexually mature around the age of six. After moving to China, the twins are expected to be able to find mates.

According to the zoo, their staff who accompanied the pandas will explain to their Chinese colleagues how to communicate with Meng Xiang and Meng Yuan through hand gestures.

This year, at least 17 pandas have been returned to China from overseas countries, including the United States, France and Japan.

According to the Sichuan provincial forestry and grassland bureau, most of the pandas were returned this year due to the expiration of agreements. Some of the returns were delayed due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, resulting in a large number of pandas coming back this year.

Xinhua - China Daily

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