First panda pair to enter the United States in 21 years take off from China

First panda pair to enter the United States in 21 years take off from China

A Historical Moment: The First Panda Pair to Enter the United States in 21 Years

On September 24, 1972, a historical moment took place that would forever change the relationship between two major global powers – the United States and China. This day marked the beginning of an extraordinary journey for Mei Xiang and Tian Tian, the first giant panda pair to be sent from China to the United States as part of a conservation and research program. This momentous event took place two decades after the last pandas, Ling-Ling and Hsing-Hsing, had been returned to China.

Preparation and Farewell

For months, the Chinese and American teams had been working closely together to prepare for this significant event. The pandas were carefully examined by veterinarians, and their living quarters in the United States – at the National Zoo in Washington D.– were readied to ensure a comfortable transition. Finally, the day arrived for the pandas to bid farewell to their homeland. A large crowd gathered at the Chengdu Research and Breeding Center in Sichuan Province, China, to see off Mei Xiang and Tian Tian. The atmosphere was filled with a mix of excitement, sadness, and anticipation as the pandas were loaded into their specially-designed transport crates.

The Long Journey

The pandas embarked on their journey to the United States, accompanied by a team of Chinese and American handlers. Their travels took them from Chengdu to Beijing, where they were boarded onto a Boeing 707 chartered by the U.S. government. The plane, named “The President’s Plane,” was equipped with special accommodations for the pandas, including an enclosed pen area and a large wooden crate filled with bamboo. The journey from Beijing to Washington D.took approximately 16 hours, but the pandas were well taken care of by their dedicated handlers and veterinarians.

Arrival and Adaptation

Upon arrival in the United States, Mei Xiang and Tian Tian were immediately taken to their new home at the National Zoo. The pandas were introduced to a varied diet, including fresh fruits, bamboo shoots, and specially formulated panda food. They spent their days exploring their new surroundings, bonding with each other, and interacting with their keepers. Over time, they began to adapt to their new environment, becoming beloved symbols of the groundbreaking partnership between China and the United States.


Pandas, with their distinct black and white physique, have captivated the world for decades. Their

history in the United States

is an intriguing tale of conservation efforts, cultural significance, and international collaboration.


In the late 1930s and early 1940s, two pandas named Ling-Ling and Hsing-Hsing graced the streets of Chicago and Washington D.C., respectively, as gifts from China’s Nationalist Government. Their presence marked a new era of cross-cultural exchange between the two nations. However, these pandas were not in the best of health, and both died within a few years. The public mourned their loss, but the experience left a lasting impression.


The impact of these pandas went beyond their brief lives. They sparked a fascination that led to the creation of link and its Panda Habitat, the first panda exhibit in the United States specifically designed for the species.

The 21-year Absence:

However, after Ling-Ling and Hsing-Hsing, there was a 21-year absence of pandas in the United States due to various reasons, including disagreements between China and the US over ownership, breeding, and care.


Despite their absence, pandas continued to hold a significant place in the American consciousness. They symbolized the enduring bond between China and the US, representing a shared love for nature and a commitment to international collaboration.

First panda pair to enter the United States in 21 years take off from China

Preparations for the Journey

Selection process of the pandas:

The selection process for choosing the pandas to be sent on this groundbreaking journey began with a careful evaluation from China’s renowned breeding program. With a focus on reproductive age and overall health, the best candidates were chosen based on their fitness for travel and ability to thrive in their new environment.

Choosing from China’s breeding program:

The Chinese team meticulously selected two pandas, one male and one female. The male, named Xiao Liwu, was born in 2014 and had a strong track record of breeding. The female, named Bai Yun, was a seasoned mother with extensive experience in rearing cubs.

Health assessments and training:

Both pandas underwent rigorous health assessments, ensuring they were in the best condition for travel. The training program focused on habituating them to their travel crates, introducing new foods, and reinforcing positive behaviors essential for a successful adaptation to their new home.

Travel arrangements and logistics:

Customized travel crates and containers:

Specially designed travel crates were crafted for our pandas to ensure their safety and comfort during transportation. These crates were equipped with temperature control systems, adequate ventilation, and ample space for the pandas to move around.

Ground transportation in China:

The pandas’ journey began with a ground transport from their breeding center to the airport in Chengdu. Chinese and American teams closely monitored their well-being throughout this process, ensuring they were as stress-free as possible.

International shipping and customs procedures:

With the pandas safely secured, international shipping arrangements were made. This involved coordinating with customs authorities to ensure a smooth transition through their respective countries’ regulations and procedures. Both teams worked closely together to provide all necessary documentation, including health certificates and permits for the pandas’ journey.

Expert teams from both countries collaborating on the journey:

Throughout every stage of this transcontinental collaboration, teams from both China and the United States worked together closely to ensure the well-being of Xiao Liwu and Bai Yun. Their unwavering dedication to these remarkable creatures’ success paved the way for a groundbreaking partnership that would forever change the landscape of international conservation efforts.

First panda pair to enter the United States in 21 years take off from China

I Farewell Ceremony in China

Description of the event: The farewell ceremony for Kai Kai and Jia Jia, the beloved giant pandas that spent the last 14 years in the United States, was a grand spectacle held in

Foster Town

, Chengdu, China. The event was attended by numerous dignitaries and high-ranking officials from both China and the United States. The list included the Chinese Consul General in San Francisco, representatives from the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding, and American conservationists.

Cultural performances and speeches:

The ceremony began with a series of cultural performances, showcasing the richness of China’s diverse heritage. Traditional dances, music, and martial arts displays captivated the audience, while intricate calligraphy and painting demonstrations provided a visual feast. Following the performances, various speeches were made, expressing appreciation for the long-standing collaboration between China and the United States in conservation efforts.

Emotional goodbyes:

Chinese officials: Chinese officials could barely contain their emotions as they bid farewell to the pandas, who had become symbols of Sino-American friendship. Their voices trembled with emotion as they expressed their gratitude for the partnership between the two countries. In a poignant moment, Chengdu’s Deputy Mayor, Li Zhi, shared his sentiments: “We are not just saying goodbye to two pandas, but also to the profound friendship between our nations.”

Reflection on the significance of pandas:

Keepers: The pandas’ dedicated keepers, who had spent years caring for the animals, were deeply affected by their departure. Their eyes filled with tears as they watched their beloved charges being loaded onto the transport plane. One keeper, Liang Peihong, shared his feelings: “They’ve been like family to us for so long. It’s going to be very difficult to see them go.”

The public:

The public, too, came out in droves to pay their respects and say goodbye. People of all ages lined the streets, waving Chinese flags and holding up signs expressing their well-wishes for the pandas’ continued health and happiness in their new home. The atmosphere was one of bittersweet nostalgia, tinged with excitement for what the future holds for this remarkable friendship between China and the United States.

First panda pair to enter the United States in 21 years take off from China

The Journey Begins: Takeoff and Departure from China

Description of the departure scene at Chengdu International Airport

The sun was just beginning to rise over Chengdu International Airport, casting a warm, golden glow on the bustling scene. The air was filled with excitement and anticipation as

US officials and personnel

, dressed in their best uniforms, prepared for the historic event. Amidst the crowd of cameras and reporters, two large


, carefully labeled with the words “Giant Panda,” stood ready to be loaded onto the cargo plane.

Arrival of US officials and personnel

The US officials, led by Dr. Martha Zoller, the Director of the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute, arrived earlier that morning. They were met at the airport by their Chinese counterparts, who warmly welcomed them to Chengdu. The collaboration between the two countries had been in the works for months, and everyone was eager to ensure a smooth transition for the pandas.

Loading of crates onto cargo plane

As the sun continued to rise, a team of handlers carefully loaded the two crates, each containing a panda, onto the cargo plane. The process was meticulous and precise, with every movement calculated to minimize stress for the animals. Once the crates were securely fastened in place, the plane’s doors were sealed and the engine roared to life.

Details about the flight and the journey, including layovers if applicable

The cargo plane, a Boeing 747 specially modified for transporting live animals, taxied onto the runway. As it gained speed, the plane lifted off the ground, leaving Chengdu and China behind. The journey ahead would be long and complex, with multiple


in the United States before reaching their final destination at the National Zoo in Washington D.The plane was equipped with state-of-the-art climate control systems and spacious living quarters to ensure the pandas’ comfort during the journey.

Collaborative efforts to ensure a smooth transition for the pandas during travel

Throughout the flight, both US and Chinese officials monitored the pandas’ health closely. They communicated regularly to share updates and address any concerns that arose. This collaborative effort was a testament to the strong partnership between the two countries and their shared commitment to conserving these precious creatures for future generations.

First panda pair to enter the United States in 21 years take off from China

Arrival in the United States and Acclimation Process

Description of the arrival scene at San Francisco International Airport or other designated airport

Upon their arrival in the United States, the giant pandas were greeted by a team of US officials, experts, and keepers at

San Francisco International Airport

or other designated airports. The animals were carefully transported from their cargo hold, where they had been housed during the long journey from China. Customs procedures and inspections were carried out meticulously to ensure the health and safety of both the pandas and humans involved. The animals were quarantined for a period to prevent the spread of any potential diseases, and every detail was documented with great care.

Transportation to the Smithsonian National Zoo or other designated facility

After the formalities at the airport were completed, the pandas were transported to their new home – the

Smithsonian National Zoo

or other designated facilities. The zoo had been preparing for this moment for months, with enclosures and habitats specially designed to cater to the unique needs of these endangered creatures. The enclosures were filled with bamboo, their primary food source, and other necessary facilities for their comfort and wellbeing.

Initial observations and assessments of the pandas’ health and behavior upon arrival

Upon their arrival, zoo staff conducted a thorough assessment of each panda’s health and behavior. The veterinary team carried out comprehensive health checks, monitoring their vital signs, teeth, and overall condition. Any necessary treatment was provided on the spot or planned for later, depending on the findings of the initial examination. The keepers observed their behavior closely to gain insights into their personality and preferences, which would help in creating an optimal environment for them.

Acclimation process, including quarantine and veterinary care if necessary

The acclimation process for the giant pandas was a crucial part of their relocation. During this period, they were kept in quarantine to prevent contact with other animals and minimize stress. The acclimation process could last several weeks, during which the pandas were gradually introduced to their new habitat, diet, and routines. Veterinary care was provided as needed to ensure a smooth transition for the pandas. The keepers worked closely with the veterinary team to monitor their progress and address any challenges that might arise during this critical period.

First panda pair to enter the United States in 21 years take off from China

VI. Conclusion

Reflection on the Historical Significance of the Pandas’ Journey and Their Arrival in the US

The journey of the giant pandas, Ling-Ling and Hsing-Hsing, from China to the United States in 1972 marked a significant milestone in international conservation efforts and diplomatic relations between the two countries. This groundbreaking event represented the first time that pandas were sent abroad for breeding purposes, and it was a testament to the commitment of both China and the United States to protect this endangered species. The pandas’ arrival in the US also symbolized a new era of cultural exchange and scientific collaboration, paving the way for future collaborative initiatives between the two nations.

Anticipation for the Impact of the Pandas on Public Engagement, Education, and Research Collaboration Between China and the United States

The presence of Ling-Ling and Hsing-Hsing at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., generated immense public interest and excitement, drawing crowds from all corners of the country. The pandas’ arrival not only provided an opportunity for people to witness these magnificent animals up close but also served as a catalyst for increased public awareness and education about conservation efforts, both in the US and in China. Furthermore, the collaboration between Chinese and American scientists during the pandas’ time in the US led to valuable research findings and insights into the pandas’ behavior, habitat requirements, and breeding habits.

Look Ahead to Future Collaborations and Partnerships Between the Two Countries in Areas Such as Conservation, Scientific Research, and Cultural Exchange

As we look ahead to the future, the legacy of the pandas’ journey continues to inspire new collaborations and partnerships between China and the United States. Building upon the success of early conservation initiatives, both countries have continued to work together in various areas such as wildlife protection, scientific research, and cultural exchange. For instance, the China-United States Environmental Protection Cooperation Program (EPCP) was established in 1979 to promote bilateral cooperation on environmental issues, including wildlife conservation. Additionally, joint research projects have led to advancements in areas such as renewable energy and climate change adaptation. The ongoing cooperation between China and the US not only benefits both nations but also contributes to global efforts to address pressing environmental challenges and foster a more sustainable future for all.