China says farewell to two giant pandas traveling to San Diego zoo

Two giant pandas are on their way to the US, where they will end up at the San Diego zoo – the first such import of the huge bears from China in more than two decades.

The loan was finalized in February after the Chinese leader, Xi Jinping, suggested sending pandas to the San Diego zoo as “envoys of friendship” between China and the US.

Officials with the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance were on hand in China for a farewell ceremony commemorating the departure of the giant pandas, Yun Chuan and Xin Bao.

The celebration included cultural performances, video salutations from Chinese and American students, and a gift exchange among conservation partners, the zoo said in a statement. After the ceremony, the giant pandas began their trip to southern California.

“This farewell celebrates their journey and underscores a collaboration between the United States and China on vital conservation efforts,” Paul Baribault, the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance president, said in a statement.

“We look forward to continuing our work together to ensure the survival and thriving of this iconic species,” Baribault continued.

Yun Chuan, a mild-mannered male who’s nearly five years old, has connections to California, the wildlife alliance said previously. His mother, Zhen Zhen, was born at the San Diego zoo in 2007 to parents Bai Yun and Gao Gao.

Xin Bao is a nearly four-year-old female described as “a gentle and witty introvert with a sweet round face and big ears”.

Chinese state TV reported that the pair of bears – whose species is notoriously picky about food – enjoy meals of fresh bamboo, fruits, vegetables and a cornbread known as wotou.

The Associated Press contributed reporting


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