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Zoo Atlanta’s Mei Lan Prepares to Leave for China Departure

On January 28, 2010, Zoo Atlanta officials made two exciting announcements on the future of the Zoo’s giant panda program: one on the results of a global grassroots effort, the other on travel plans for an international superstar.

Earlier this morning, Zoo Atlanta President and CEO Dennis Kelly revealed the final outcome of the Give So They Stay campaign, launched by Zoo officials on June 17, 2009. The campaign, which concluded on December 31, 2009, generated more than $402,900 toward an original goal of $500,000. The result is excellent news for bear fans everywhere: an official confirmation that giant pandas will continue to have a home at Zoo Atlanta, where they have become the focus of a global center of excellence for the care, study and conservation of this species. 

In a testament to the success of Zoo Atlanta’s giant panda program, one of the Zoo’s four bears will soon return to her parents’ homeland. On February 4, 2010, 3-year-old Mei Lan will depart Atlanta for China, where she will be a new and valuable contributor to the global panda population. Mei Lan’s local and national travel, including her cross-continental flight, has been generously donated by FedEx Express, a subsidiary of FedEx Corp. (NYSE: FDX). Also on the jet will be Mei Lan’s cousin Tai Shan, a 4-year-old male from Smithsonian’s National Zoo.

Mei Lan was the first giant panda cub born at Zoo Atlanta and the only cub born in the U.S. in 2006 – facts that make her departure bittersweet for thousands of fans. The Zoo will, however, receive updates on Mei Lan’s progress in China for posting on zooatlanta.org.

“Mei Lan will be missed, not only by Zoo Atlanta, but by everyone who has watched her grow up here with us,” said Kelly. “At the same time, we are enormously proud of her exciting new opportunity in China, and pleased to continue to be part of a cooperative global effort to save her species.”

Of course, Atlanta’s biggest animal superstar won’t be leaving without fanfare. Members of the public are invited to attend a farewell celebration on Saturday, January 30 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Zoo Atlanta’s Panda Veranda. Activities will include a festive FedEx Express drop box for farewell cards; themed entertainment; crafts and refreshments (while supplies last). The Zoo will also host an exclusive limited raffle opportunity: one extremely lucky winner and a guest will be permitted to witness Mei Lan’s exit from the giant panda building on the morning of her departure. Raffle tickets are $25, and only 500 will be sold.

Even as Mei Lan prepares for the journey of a lifetime, many exciting milestones lay ahead in the months to come for her family remaining in Atlanta. In coming weeks, Mei Lan’s brother, 1-year-old Xi Lan, will be weaned – an event that will be followed closely by the annual breeding season for his parents, 12-year-olds Lun Lun and Yang Yang.