China rolled out the red carpet today for pandas Tai Shan and Mei Lan, who arrived in Chengdu after a 15-hour flight from the US. Tai Shan was born at the National Zoo in Washington and Mei Lan at the Atlanta Zoo, but because their parents are Chinese, they had to be returned to China under a longstanding agreement. After the welcoming ceremony, the two will spend a month in quarantine, and then will be sent to separate panda preserves.
“It’s a change,” says one panda conservation expert. “Animals need to adapt, but this is the right age to change.” Among the things they'll have to adjust to is a new language for commands: Tai Shan, 4, will be tutored in Mandarin and 3-year-old Mei Lan in Sichuan. (Read more giant pandas stories.)