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Pambassadors @ Zoo Atlanta

Posted by Jeroen Jacobs | Date: 2011 06 13 | In: Zoo Atlanta

I visited Zoo Atlanta from June 9 until June 12, 2011.
Zoo Atlanta has currently four pandas: Lun Lun, Yang Yang, Xi Lan & Po.

I was happy to see the 4 pandas and to meet my fellow Pambassadors
Ashley Robertson (USA) & Annie-Danielle Grenier (Canada) again.

Zoo Atlanta became interested to host a couple of giant pandas in the mid 80′s. Former President Jimmy Carter, who still had good contacts among the Chinese leaders, made a request on behalf of Zoo Atlanta during one of his trips to China.

Zoo Atlanta director Terry L. Maple was invited to Beijing by the Chinese Association of Zoological Gardens in September 1987. When he left China, he returned to Atlanta with a short-term loan agreement. But this short-term loan did not take place, instead Zoo Atlanta started to think about a long-term loan model, which would be a better way to exhibit pandas. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service approved their application to import two giant pandas on June 15, 1999.

On November 5, 1999, Zoo Atlanta received a young pair of giant pandas from the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding on a 10-year loan. Lun Lun & Yang Yang made their trip in a specially equipped and custom-painted Boeing 767 UPS cargo plane. The pandas live at the The Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation Giant Panda Conservation Center.

Lun Lun (female) was born on August 25, 1997 at the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding. Her mother is Bing Bing and her father is Lin Nan. Her birth name given to her by keepers in Chengdu was Hua Hua. She was renamed by a Taiwanese rock star, Su Huilun.

Yang Yang (male) was born on September 9, 1997 at the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding. His mother is Ya Ya and his father is Zhen Zhen. His name means “Little Sea” in Chinese. Yang Yang’s birth name was Jiu Jiu. He was renamed by three organizations in the Netherlands.

Lun Lun & Yang Yang lived together with the other cubs born in 1997 in Chengdu until they moved to Atlanta. Zoo Atlanta’s Curator of Mammals, Rebecca Snyder, had the honour to study Lun Lun & Yang Yang during their first year of life. The pandas stayed together in Atlanta until they reached sexual maturity.

Their first child, Mei Lan, was born on September 6, 2006. Her name means “Atlanta Beauty” in Chinese. She left her birth town Atlanta on February 4, 2010. Mei Lan moved to her parents native country China, to participate in the giant panda breeding program. She lives now at the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding.

Xi Lan was born on August 30, 2008. His name means “Atlanta’s Joy” in Chinese.

The youngest member of Zoo Atlanta’s Panda Family, Po, was born on November 3, 2010.

Mei Lan and her brothers were born after artificial insemination performed by experts from the Chengdu Panda Base and Zoo Atlanta staff.

When I was in Georgia, it was extremely hot. The pandas stayed in the airconditioned day rooms due to the weather conditions.

When meeting my fellow Pambassadors Ashley Robertson on Friday and Annie-Danielle Grenier on Sunday, we had much to talk about. It has been 8 months since I left China and it was great to talk about our Chengdu experiences.

One of my amazing experiences in Chengdu was to work with Mei Lan. I have visited her in Atlanta when she was a year old and a couple of months before she moved to China. It is extra special when working with a panda with whom you have some connection…

I also remember when I visited Xi Lan for the first time when he was a year old. I remember especially the interaction between Xi Lan & my son Luca.

When I see Xi Lan now, I must say he really starts to look more and more like his older sister.

When I look at little Po, I am wondering if he will gett Lun Lun’s round face in the future?
Po is such an adventurer! He looks fearless when climbing and running around.

We were welcomed in Atlanta by Yu JinPing, one of the US’s biggest Panda Experts. Yu JinPing was born in China and lives for more than 20 years in the United States. His knowledge about pandas and the Chinese & Western Culture is amazing. It is always great when a local citizen makes you feel like home in a town far away…

The Pambassadors received a Behind-The-Scènes-Tour at Zoo Atlanta’s Panda House by Panda Keepers Heather Roberts & Jen Webb. Yang Yang was eating some bamboo while Heather toured us around the Panda House.

Po doesn’t like the outdoor enclosure yett. Po was born in November and this is outside of the normal panda birthing season. This means he went out for the first time closer to summer. He is still getting used to the hot weather.

Click here for more pictures of Lun Lun, Yang Yang, Xi Lan & Po.

It was great to meet so many panda fans in Atlanta and
I hope the people of Georgia can keep enjoying our black-and-white friends forever…

Pambassador Jeroen Jacobs

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