Mei Lan, a 3-year-old female giant panda from Zoo Atlanta, departed for China on February 4, 2010. Transportation for the world-famous bear was generously donated by FedEx Express, a subsidiary of FedEx Corp. (NYSE: FDX).
Zoo Volunteers and Docents lined the sidewalks of Cherokee Avenue for a parting glimpse as the FedEx truck transporting Mei Lan left Zoo Atlanta at 6:30 a.m. Her vehicle was escorted by an Atlanta Police motorcade on the trip to Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.
Mei Lan’s aircraft, a custom-decaled FedEx Express 777F christened the FedEx Panda Express, was waiting at the airport for its precious cargo at 7:00 a.m. Officials loaded an enormous FedEx box packed with farewell cards signed by hundreds of fans as Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed; Mike Ducker, Chief Operating Officer, FedEx Express; former Zoo Atlanta President and CEO Dennis Kelly; and Ben De Costa, General Manager, Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, delivered opening remarks. The jet received a ceremonial washdown salute before taking off at 8:15 a.m.
The FedEx Panda Express was en route to Washington’s Dulles International Airport to retrieve Mei Lan’s fellow passenger, 4-year-old male Tai Shan from Smithsonian’s National Zoo, for a nonstop flight to Chengdu, China. Mei Lan is accompanied by Zoo Atlanta Giant Panda Keeper Heather Roberts, who will spend the next 10 days with her at the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding.
“This is a bittersweet moment for the Zoo Atlanta family and for fans around the world, but it’s a wonderful moment for giant pandas,” said Zoo Atlanta Curator of Mammals Dr. Rebecca Snyder. “We’re very proud to have shared Mei Lan’s life to the point where she can now begin making her own contributions to the world’s population of giant pandas.”
Thousands of local, national and international fans paid tribute to Zoo Atlanta’s firstborn giant panda cub during her last weeks in Atlanta, even braving a particularly cold and rainy Saturday to attend her Farewell Celebration on January 30. Following an exclusive raffle drawing offered during the celebration, Zoo Atlanta Docent Lynne LaVallee won the coveted opportunity to witness Mei Lan’s final exit from outside the giant panda building Thursday morning.
Mei Lan’s many admirers can find updated information about the pandas’ journey at news.fedex.com/pandas. As they become available, updates on Mei Lan’s progress in China will be posted on zooatlanta.org.
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