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Panda returns home in search of love
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13:29, November 07, 2007

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Mei Sheng, the world's first "American" giant panda, arrived in Shanghai last night for a stopover before traveling on to Sichuan Province where his would-be bride awaits.

Born in San Diego Zoo on August 19, 2003, Mei Sheng is the first panda to be born in the US by natural means.

His name translates as "Born in the USA".

The bear's final destination is the Wolong Nature Reserve in Sichuan, where he is expected to arrive this afternoon.

Li Desheng, deputy director of the China Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda at the reserve, said vets at San Diego Zoo had conducted thorough medical tests on Mei Sheng prior to his departure and said he was perfectly healthy.

Researchers at the zoo said they have been studying Mei Sheng and his mother Bai Yun since his birth and have collected a lot of valuable information about how cubs grow and the relationship they have with their mothers.

Li said the return of Mei Sheng is part of a cooperative agreement on panda research between China and the US.

If a panda gives birth while "on loan" to an American zoo, her offspring must return to China once they reach sexual maturity, he said.

"Mei Sheng is coming back primarily so we can find him a mate. Over the next two years we hope he finds a partner here at the reserve," he said.

Zhang Hemin, head of the reserve's administrative bureau, said staff at Wolong, which is home to 128 giant pandas, are trying to determine which of the female bears will make a good partner for Mei Sheng.

"We'll choose several pandas that are unrelated to Mei Sheng and arrange dates for him so he can choose the one he loves," Zhang told China Daily.

He said the dating process will take place between March and May when Mei Sheng is ruttish.

"Pandas are very particular about their mating partners. Whether we can succeed in finding a partner for Mei Sheng will depend on whether he likes any of the candidates chosen for him," Li said.

Source: China Daily

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