Photo: Wikipedia, CC. FedEx.
A Panda Express Ride for Mei Lan (3 years old) and Tai Shan (4.5 years old)Mei Lan and Tai Shan are two US-born giant pandas that are about to leave their homes at the Washington D.C. Smithsonian National Zoological Park and the Atlanta Zoo to go back to their homeland, China. This is done to fulfill some international conservation agreements, but such a trip is not routine; it can be traumatic for a panda, and so a lot of attention was paid to making the trip as comfortable and as fast as possible. The centerpiece of the plan is a new plane recently acquired by FedEx, a super fuel-efficient Boeing 777F dubbed the Panda Express (see photos below).
The 777F will take off from Dulles International airport, near Washington's National Zoo, and then fly straight to to Chengdu, China. The trip should take about 14.5 hours, a record for a USA-to-China panda voyage.
Ground transportation to the airport will be provided by FedEx trucks with police escorts, and once inside the plane, the pandas will be housed in "custom-built tubular steel containers." Of course, the favorite food of the guests of honor will also be available: Bamboo, but also pears, apples and sweet potatoes.
A veterinarian will also be present on board.
Couldn't resist putting a photo of a panda cub. For more, see here and here.
Panda Repopulation is the GoalDiscovery News writes: "It is hoped that both Mei Lan and Tai Shan -- with separate partners -- will produce cubs of their own in China. Tai Shan may be ready to breed in just half a year's time. Conservationists estimate that only 1,600 pandas remain in the wild, so every successful birth is important for the international captive breeding program."
Here's a one and a half minute news segment about this from ABC: