Panda pair heading to Zoo Berlin in 15-year agreement on conservation

Updated 2017-06-24 09:46:16 China Daily
Meng Meng, 5, a female panda, plays at the Chengdu Panda Research Base on May 3, 2017.

Meng Meng, 5, a female panda, plays at the Chengdu Panda Research Base on May 3, 2017.

On Saturday morning, a pair of giant pandas will leave Chengdu, capital of Sichuan province, to make a 12-hour journey across the globe.

The destination: Berlin, Germany, where they will reside at Zoo Berlin for 15 years, a time that will include joint scientific research between the zoo and the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding, according to Chen Cheng, an information officer with the base.

Jiao Qing, 7, a male panda, and Meng Meng, 5, a female, will depart from Chengdu Shuangliu International Airport at 8:40 am on Saturday.

During their flight, they will be accompanied by two keepers from the Chengdu base and Andreas Ochs, a senior veterinarian from Zoo Berlin.

The flight's "meal service" will include ample bamboo and water, Ochs said, adding that he and the two Chinese keepers will keep close tabs on the two pandas during the flight.

A send-off ceremony for the pandas was held at the Chengdu base on Friday afternoon. In attendance were Ochs and representatives of the China Wildlife Conservation Association and the Sichuan provincial forestry department.

The pandas' trip was made possible by a cooperation agreement on panda conservation signed on April 28 between the conservation association and Zoo Berlin, marking the beginning of a 15-year relationship.

China's fourth panda census showed 1,864 wild pandas and 375 captive pandas worldwide as of the end of 2013, according to results released in 2015. Most of the pandas are in Sichuan.

Jiao Qing, 7, a male panda, eats bamboos at the Chengdu Panda Research Base on May 3, 2017.

Jiao Qing, 7, a male panda, eats bamboos at the Chengdu Panda Research Base on May 3, 2017.

Sichuan has worked with over 10 countries in panda conservation, said Liu Bing, deputy chief of the provincial forestry department.

Zhang Zhihe, head of the Chengdu base, said that his facility alone has collaborated with 13 foreign zoos in scientific research into pandas, including zoos in the United States, Japan and Canada.

The base was set up in 1987 with six ill, hungry pandas rescued from the wild when bamboo, the pandas' staple food, bloomed in the 1980s.

Bamboo dies after it flowers. It is now home to 176 captive pandas, thanks to Chinese researchers having solved the primary obstacles hindering the mating of pandas and the survival of their cubs in captivity.

The pandas' home in Germany will cover about 5,500 square meters and Zoo Berlin will do its utmost to make the pandas feel at home, according to its head, Andreas Knieriem.

It is the third time that Zoo Berlin has hosted giant pandas.

In 1980, after West German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt visited, China sent Bao Bao and Tian Tian as a state gift to the country.

Tian Tian died in 1984, but Bao Bao lived to the ripe old age of 34, the equivalent of 102 in human terms, dying in 2012.

In 1995, China loaned Yan Yan, a female panda, to Zoo Berlin. In 2007, she died at the age of 22.

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