Popular Giant pandas Tian Tian , Mei Xiang and Xiao Qi Ji departed for China this week.
The long-time DC residents departed the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute (NZCBI) for Dulles International Airport aboard a dedicated and custom-decaled FedEx Panda Express Boeing 777F aircraft. According to FedEx, the 19-hour, trans-Pacific flight from Washington, D.C., to Chengdu, China, will include a brief refueling stop in Anchorage, Alaska.
After receiving their breakfast, each panda entered their individual, custom travel crate, which they have been acclimating to over the past several weeks. One by one, Tian Tian, Mei Xiang and Xiao Qi Ji’s crates were moved onto a forklift that traveled carefully out of the David M. Rubenstein Family Giant Panda Habitat. They were then loaded onto FedEx trucks before departing the Zoo. Brandie Smith, the John and Adrienne Mars director of NZCBI, was joined by Minister Xu Xueyuan from the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China, FedEx and animal care staff to say goodbye.
As Tian Tian, Mei Xiang and Xiao Qi Ji depart for their new home in China, they leave behind a tremendous legacy in Washington, D.C. It is exciting and humbling that people around the world have followed these pandas, shared in our joys and rooted for our success. I am incredibly proud of our animal care experts and researchers, whose observations and research in giant panda biology, behavior, reproduction, health and native habitat have helped move giant pandas off the endangered species list. As this chapter of our giant panda program closes, we remain committed to the conservation of this species and look forward to continued collaboration with our Chinese colleagues. – Brandie Smith, the John and Adrienne Mars director of The Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute
Courtesy – National Zoo