San Diego Zoo

Pandas from China safely arrive at San Diego Zoo

Yun Chuan and Xin Bao have arrived at the world-famous San Diego Zoo

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San Diego, get ready for the panda-monium. Yun Chuan and Xin Bao safely arrived at the San Diego Zoo on Thursday, the Chinese Consulate General in Los Angeles said.

"They are in good conditions and will be in quarantine for several weeks before the debut," the Chinese consulate said in an X post. "Experts from China will work with the zoo and help them to acclimate to their new home."

The San Diego Zoo also confirmed their arrival and said the bears will spend the next several weeks adjusting to their new homes before they may be viewable to the public.

"They are being monitored closely by expert wildlife health and care teams who will determine when the pair are ready to meet the public," the San Diego Zoo said in a written statement.

No official date has been set.

They are the first pandas to enter the U.S. in 21 years. Both departed China soon after their farewell ceremonies on Wednesday. Mayor Todd Gloria participated in the ceremonies in China.

Yun Chuan is nearly 5 years old and is described as mild-mannered, gentle and lovable. He is the son of Zhen Zhen (pronounced jen jen) who was born at the San Diego Zoo in 2007 to parents Bai Yun (pronounced bye yoon) and Gao Gao (pronounced gow gow). The first character of his name, "Yun," is a nod to his grandmother Bai Yun, who lived at the San Diego Zoo for 23 years, according to the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance.

Xin Bao is a nearly 4-year-old female and is described as a "gentle and witty introvert with a sweet round face and big ears," a zoo statement reads. Her name means a "new treasure of prosperity and abundance."

The conservation collaboration between the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance and China Wildlife Conservation Association "aims to improve giant panda population health and resilience in some of the smallest and most isolated populations vulnerable to extinction and loss of genetic diversity," according to a statement from the San Diego Zoo.

Giant pandas are prized in Washington and around the nation and the world. The number of pandas in American zoos has dwindled as loan agreements lapsed during diplomatic tensions between the U.S. and China, which remain high. When U.S.-China relations began to sour in recent years, members of the Chinese public started to demand the return of giant pandas. Unproven allegations that U.S. zoos mistreated the pandas, known as China’s “national treasure,” flooded China’s social media.

The pandas that had been on loan to the San Diego Zoo were sent to China in 2019.

While zoo officials have remained mum regarding the imminent arrival of San Diego's black-and-white visitors from China, a report issued by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has revealed details ahead of their long-term visit to the zoo.

San Diego Zoo prepares for pandas

An application submitted to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service filed earlier revealed details ahead of the panda's long-term loan to the zoo.

In the San Diego Zoo's official request with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the park said it expected to have the renovated panda habitat ready for use by June.

The old exhibit, which was split into two sections, will be combined into a single habitat to give the bears more room to roam. An adjacent enclosure will also be retrofitted to allow for the expansion and more viewing space for guests. Though only two are planned for now, the enlarged exhibit has the capacity for four bears.

Also in the request: If a cub is born, it would stay in San Diego at least until it's 2 years old, but no longer than four years from its birth before being sent to China. Although the duration might be different, this was the same practice in place the zoo had in the past, since the animals are the property of China and are on loan to San Diego.

A mock-up of the habitat space for two pandas from China.
A mock-up of the habitat space for two pandas from China.
Yun Chuan and Xin Bao are headed to San Diego! NBC 7's Joe Little has more details on the new pandas. 

The San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance has a nearly 30-year partnership with leading conservation institutions in China focused on protecting and recovering giant pandas and the bamboo forests they depend on.

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