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Bao Bao, an American-Born Panda, Steps Out in China

Bao Bao is not the first American-born panda to face the challenges of a new life. In November, when Mei Lun and Mei Huan, the first surviving panda twins to have been born in the United States, at Zoo Atlanta, came to China, the Chinese news media reported that they, too, had difficulties with the local language and food.

According to the conservation and research center, 25 pandas have been born abroad since the 1990s, when China set up panda breeding programs in collaboration with 17 zoos in 12 countries. Of these, 18 have survived. By agreement, pandas provided by China are considered loans, and their offspring must be sent to China before their fourth birthday in preparation for breeding.

Bao Bao was born on Aug. 23, 2013, to Mei Xiang and Tian Tian, two pandas on loan to the National Zoo. Her older brother, Tai Shan, who was born in 2005 and sent to China in 2010, is now her neighbor at the Dujiangyan base. A younger brother, Bei Bei, was born in 2015 and is still in Washington.

A 2016 report by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature put the total number of giant pandas around 2,060. While that is up from the 1,596 counted in a 2000-4 census, the health of the population depends on continued conservation efforts. Each panda has a mission to spread the genes, and Bao Bao is no exception. Once she reaches sexual maturity, around 5 or 6 years old, she will acquire a boyfriend.

“When Bao Bao gets to that age, we will arrange for her to meet many young males,’’ Mr. Tang said, “and their relationship will be based on love.”

Source: NYT > World

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