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Atlanta panda twins go to Chengdu, China

Reporter: Sean Callebs 丨 CCTV.com

11-03-2016 13:06 BJT

Zoo Atlanta is one of just four zoos in the US that has a panda exchange program with China. This so-called panda diplomacy has been a huge boon to the zoo. Today is an important day -- two pandas who have entertained crowds for years are making a long journey to a homeland they've never seen.

For the past three years - these girls - the first surviving panda twins born in captivity in the U.S. -- have been the star attraction at Zoo Atlanta.

"It is just really cool to see twin pandas 'cause you just don't get to see them that often. I saw in the newspaper saying they are leaving, I was like i have to come see them for the last time," Visitor Kate Woo said.

We first met Mei Lun and Mei Huan shortly after they were born. Healthy - happy -if a little bit fussy. Now, as part of an exchange agreement with China, these two are making a long journey to Chengdu -- and the Giant Panda Research Base.

"I am a little emotional just thinking about it?" Zoo Atlanta Mammal curator Stephanie Braccini said.

Zoo Atlanta's mammal curator Stephanie Braccini has watched the twins -blossom into fun-loving, entertaining sisters, and it's only natural to have mixed feelings saying good-bye.

"We are happy knowing they are going - they will add to the genetic diversity of the population. and potentially their offspring --their offspring's-offspring could be released into the wild," Braccini said.

Mei Lun and Mei Huan have been so close ever since they were born. But pandas are solitary bears -and soon heading back to china. within a year or two this is all going to change, they will actually become quite separate.

"Seeing two twins play, and having such a close bond and a really complex relationship with each other - they have taught me -we always have to challenge what we know --what we think we know about animals," Braccini said.

Their antics have provided non-stop amusement. The trip to China will take about 50 hours. They will fly cargo in separate crates along with a Zoo Atlanta curator ---oh, and the 175-kilos of bamboo and assorted treats to keep Mei Lun and Mei Huan happy. So, the goodbye card - is up, as besties say good-bye to the only home they have ever known.

"They are ambassadors for an entire nation, an entire culture. i see people embrace the fluffy animal and then go that extra step further to learn about the culture, the tradition -what do giant pandas mean in China..??" Braccini said.

Even as these two leave, another set of twins was born, two months ago - and soon, they will make their public appearance. The newbies - so far, un-named -will have some big paw-prints to fill.

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