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US-born pandas adjusting to life in China

Last Updated: Wednesday, February 24, 2010 - 11:50

Beijing: Two US-born pandas returned to China earlier this month are adapting to their new homes at their own paces, but their handlers say they have both developed a healthy appetite for Chinese bamboo.

Four-year-old male Tai Shan is enjoying life at Wolong Nature Reserve in the southwestern province of Sichuan, climbing trees and running around, said Tang Chunxiang, head of the panda breeding centre.

On the other hand, three-year-old female Mei Lan snarled at people and lost her appetite when she first arrived at the panda centre in the provincial capital Chengdu, state Xinhua news agency reported.

But she is now adjusting and eats at least 30 kilograms (65 pounds) of bamboo and 300 grams of fruit every day, said Huang Mingxiang, head of animal management at the Chengdu centre.

Tai Shan is also a fan of Chinese bamboo, Tang said.

Visitors will be able to see the two pandas in about 10 days when their one-month quarantine ends.

The two furry former US zoo residents arrived in China on February 5 aboard a specially fitted "Panda Express" Boeing 777 cargo jet and experts are hoping they can help boost dwindling numbers of the notoriously under-sexed species.

Pandas are a national treasure in China, but they are extremely poor breeders.

Researchers want Mei Lan to "get busy as soon as possible", with the help of "panda porn", state media reported, as the conservation centres try to encourage mating by one of the world`s most endangered species.

Under agreements between Beijing and Washington, any pandas on loan to the United States and their cubs born in captivity must all eventually return to China.

Tai Shan was born in Washington to parents loaned to the United States while Mei Lan came into the world at Atlanta zoo.

The animals were meant to come home at age two, but both were allowed to stay in the United States longer than planned.

Tai Shan`s father Tian Tian, 13, and mother Mei Xiang, 12, are due to return to China in December next year, Xinhua said.

There are nearly 1,600 pandas living in the wild, more than three-quarters of them in Sichuan. Pandas are also found in the northwestern provinces of Gansu and Shaanxi. Another 180 are in captive-breeding programmes in China.

Bureau Report

First Published: Wednesday, February 24, 2010 - 11:50

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