Three giant pandas have been returned to China after spending nearly two decades at the Smithsonian's National Zoo in Washington, D.C. The pandas, 25-year-old Mei Xiang, 26-year-old Tian Tian, and their 3-year-old cub, Xiao Qi Ji, arrived in Chengdu, China on November 8, 2023, via a FedEx Express Boeing 777F dubbed the "FedEx Panda Express."
The pandas were accompanied by animal care experts from the Smithsonian's National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute and traveled in custom-built transport enclosures provided by FedEx. The pandas were the only cargo on the trans-Pacific flight from Washington's Dulles International Airport to China's Chengdu Shuangliu International Airport, aside from supplies such as bamboo, water, and their favorite treats, including sugarcane, apples, and pears.
The pandas' return to China is part of a long-standing agreement between the Smithsonian and the China Wildlife Conservation Association (CWCA) to collaborate on giant panda conservation. The agreement, which was first signed in 1984, has helped to save giant pandas from extinction.
"The return of Mei Xiang, Tian Tian, and Xiao Qi Ji is a testament to the strong partnership between the Smithsonian and the CWCA," said Steven Monfort, director of the Smithsonian's National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute. "We are committed to working together to ensure the survival of this iconic species."
The pandas will spend the next 30 days in quarantine at the Chengdu Shenshuping Panda Base before being released into the wild.
FedEx has a long history of supporting giant panda conservation. The company has donated the cost of transporting the pandas to China as part of its ongoing corporate social responsibility and environmental conservation efforts.
"We are deeply honored to again serve as the transportation provider of giant pandas," said Richard Smith, president and chief executive officer of FedEx Express. "The safe delivery of Mei Xiang, Tian Tian, and Xiao Qi Ji is a testament to the company's commitment and ability to securely ship precious cargo."
FedEx has transported 15 different giant pandas on 10 separate flights over the past two decades. The company has also provided trucking and logistical support for the pandas' transport to and from the Smithsonian's National Zoo.
"We are proud to be a part of this important conservation effort," said Smith. "We look forward to continuing to work with the Smithsonian and the CWCA to help save giant pandas from extinction."Return to Articles