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Zoo Atlanta’s panda, Mei Lan, to depart for China Feb. 4

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Mei Lan at Zoo Atlanta in February 2008. She leaves for China on Feb. 4. AJC file photo

We all knew it was coming, but it appears the countdown can start: Zoo Atlanta’s first panda cub is moving back to China next month.

The Washington Post reported today that when the National Zoo’s four-year-old panda, Tai Shan, departs Washington on Feb. 4 to go back to China — with Mei Lan.

Zoo Atlanta has not yet confirmed the last day she will be on view or plans for a farewell celebration. Only the zoo’s MySpace page confirmed the Feb. 4 panda plane-pool. A press release Tuesday afternoon said the zoos plan to make a joint announcement about the panda departures later this week.

Late Tuesday afternoon, Zoo Atlanta spokeswoman Keisha Hines said they’re planning a going-away party for Mei Lan from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday. Details will be announced later this week. Mei Lan will remain on view through the weekend.

Feb. 3 will be the last day to see the National Zoo’s  panda prince on display.

From the Post:

Smithsonian Secretary G. Wayne Clough, calling the news “bittersweet,” said Tai Shan will travel on a FedEx flight and be accompanied by a panda from a zoo in Atlanta. The nonstop flight is scheduled to depart from Dulles International Airport early in the morning. An Atlanta zoo spokeswoman said that its panda is a 3-year-old female named Mei Lan.

Mei Lan, whose name means “Atlanta Beauty,” was the first panda born in captivity at Zoo Atlanta. The decade long panda loan with China was recently extended for five years, so Mei Lan’s parents, mom Lun Lun, dad Yang Yang and boy sibling Xi Lan, will remain in Atlanta.

We’ll follow up with more details as they become available.

Will you miss Mei Lan? Will you go to a good-bye party? Share your thoughts in the comments!

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18 comments Add your comment

kathy

January 27th, 2010
1:14 pm

Hello from Canada where we also love Mei Lan! We’ve watched her grow up on the panda cam and will miss her very much. She doesn’t have to pay taxes, the joy she brings to people seeing her is payment enough. We will miss you Mei Lan and you will always be in our hearts no matter where you are!

mary

January 27th, 2010
9:01 am

It’s a shame that Mei Lan has to go & leave to go to china. She seemed happy Living here. Hopefully someday, we’ll be able to keep them here, instead of sending them to china or some other country. Wish that panda a good healthy life. Hope all goes good for her. Bless her heart. Take care mei Lan. We’ll miss ya not being here. Your always on our mind. Love ya. Mary & family.

Lynne Everett

January 27th, 2010
1:02 am

I am so sad, I even cried as I remember seeing her born and watching her grow. I have not been able to see her yet. I will make a point go see her little brother though. I wish we could keep them here in the states.

Vicky

January 26th, 2010
8:33 pm

How pitiful that you measure the benefit to existence by whether she pays taxes, or whether she’s an animal. Republican by any chance?

Gloria

January 26th, 2010
8:08 pm

Yes my family will miss her. She may not have paid taxes, but she earned her keep by bringing interest and visitors to the zoo. Of course I cried when Willie B died…at least this isn’t that sad.

Pam Moran

January 26th, 2010
7:59 pm

Yes, we’ll miss her. She was born in the U.S.A. That ought to make her a U.S. citizen, regardless of the contract.

Vicki

January 26th, 2010
7:47 pm

I will miss her. She’s a native Atlantan and a beautiful girl-bear.

null

January 26th, 2010
7:13 pm

Did she pay taxes? If not…..no.

Kellie Kakes

January 26th, 2010
7:00 pm

It’s a bear. NO! I will not miss a bear. Maybe a lonely person would miss a animal. WTF!!

JAY YOUNG

January 26th, 2010
3:45 pm

This is sad. Remember when we all watched her first steps, etc.