Last pandas in the US are returning to China


Zoo Atlanta is gearing up to return four giant pandas — the last ones remaining on U.S. soil at present — to China later this year.

Key points:

  • Zoo Atlanta is returning the pandas to China by the end of 2024, concluding a 25-year loan agreement.

  • The zoo has applied for the pandas’ international travel permits, with departure details to be determined in collaboration with partners at China’s Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda.

  • The zoo will issue an advance notice of the pandas’ departure and specific timing for final visiting opportunities.

The details:

  • Lun Lun, Yang Yang and their cubs Ya Lun and Xi Lun became the only remaining pandas in the U.S. after the Smithsonian’s National Zoo in Washington, D.C., sent three pandas back to China in October 2023.

  • Lun Lun and Yang Yang, both 26, arrived at Zoo Atlanta in 1999 as part of a 25-year loan agreement. The couple has produced seven offspring: Mei Lan (born 2006), Xi Lan (2008), Po (2010), twins Mei Lun and Mei Huan (2013) and the most recent twins Ya Lun and Xi Lun (2016).

  • Mei Lan, Xi Lan, Po, Mei Lun and Mei Huan were returned to the Chengdu research base at ages 4, 5, 3 and 3, respectively. The return of Ya Lun and Xi Lun — now aged 7 — was temporarily halted due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • Zoo Atlanta said it will update the public on relevant dates:

"As the process for sending giant pandas to China is extensive and requires months of planning, Zoo Atlanta expects to be able to share significant advance notice of the pandas’ departure with friends and fans and, at a future date, will announce specific timing for a final opportunity for guests to visit Lun Lun, Yang Yang, Ya Lun, and Xi Lun in Atlanta.”

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  • The zoo also announced a "Summer of Celebration" event on June 1 to commemorate its loan agreement with China. The free event will feature cultural performances and educational activities.

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