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Giant panda cooperation promotes China-US ties

One year after they returned to China, Mei Lun and Mei Huan - the first pair of surviving giant panda twins born in the United States - are gradually getting used to their new home in Chengdu in Southwest China’s Sichuan province. Living in the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding, the sisters now enjoy wide popularity in the country.

“The giant pandas are very timid and love staying in the woods. So they need more time to adapt to their current environment. We’ll adopt different measures to help them. In general, the pandas which came back from overseas are living happily here,” Li Han, a keeper at the base, told CGTN.

Since the 1980s, giant pandas have been loaned overseas under certain agreements as the ambassadors of friendship. Now the US has more than 10 in four cities: Washington, Atlanta, Memphis and San Diego. The twins are the offspring of Lun Lun and Yang Yang, who were loaned to Zoo Atlanta in 1999 under an agreement between China and the US.

In recent years, experts from China and the US have been working closely to preserve the “national treasure” of China and have made great breakthroughs in giant panda breeding. In September 2016, Lun Lun gave birth to another pair of twins – and they’re still living in Zoo Atlanta.

“One of our great resources is that we are able to exchange staff to learn from each other,” said Sam Rivera, a veterinarian of Zoo Atlanta. Hayley Murphy, Vice President of the zoo, said such partnership has set a good example for jointly preserving endangered species. More importantly, it promotes friendship between the two countries.

“The exchange of research and expertise, and the friendship that we’ve built over the years strengthen our ties. I think it’s a great bridge between the two countries. Everybody loves giant pandas. They are the most beautiful ambassador animal you could have. So to follow them as an ambassador animal and create those ties and strengthen those ties over time can only lead to success of many other areas,” said Murphy.

In fact, no matter where in the US, giant pandas are always super stars. The departure of the American-born giant panda Bao Bao from the Smithsonian’s National Zoo in February just broke the heart of its numerous fans in the US.

“It is significant that we send giant pandas to the US through the international cooperative breeding project, and let Americans feel the charm of the creatures. Because they will not only bring our culture to the country, but also bring our friendliness to their people,” said Liu Yuliang, a giant panda breeding expert at the Chengdu panda base.

Besides establishing partnerships with different zoos, the Chengdu panda base also collaborates with international universities and research institutions in areas such as ethology and genetics, such as the University of Iowa.

Liu said he is confident that both countries will continue to accomplish more in the areas of breeding and conservation in the years to come as the cooperation deepens.