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Patty Davis: Kids, adults alike fall in love with new pandas
CNN Correspondent Patty Davis is at Washington's National Zoo where two giant pandas made their debut Wednesday.
Q: What was it like when the pandas were first introduced to the public?
DAVIS: Hundreds of people gathered at the National Zoo to see the pandas as they strolled out to their huge outdoor playground earlier Wednesday. Zookeepers lured them out with carrots, apples and bamboo. The animals are hardly noticing their visitors. They feasted on bamboo and they wrestled for much of the day. After that, they decided it was time to take a nap.
So, they have adjusted really well to having visitors.
They have been a big hit at the zoo. I'd say about half the people through here have been children who have totally fallen in love with these pandas. They are absolutely darling. When you see them in person, you can actually tell which one is which.
The male Tian Tian is much larger. He has black markings on his legs that look like socks. The female Mei Xiang has black markings on her legs that go higher up to her hips and look more like stockings.
Q: When did the pandas arrive at the zoo?
DAVIS: The pandas have been in the United States for about a month. They arrived from China by Federal Express at Dulles Airport. Since then, they had been in quarantine. They also received distemper and rabies shots. And they've been acclimating themselves to their new surroundings here in Washington, as well as to their new zookeepers.
Q: What sort of arrangement has been made with the Chinese government for the pandas to stay at the National Zoo?
DAVIS: These two giant pandas come with an equally giant pricetag. The National Zoo is leasing the pandas at a cost of $1 million a year over 10 years. That is mostly being paid by corporate sponsors, including Fuji Films and Animalplanet; there are some individual contributors as well.
The zoo has raised a total of $18 million for the time that they will be here.
Q: What is China doing with the money?
DAVIS: China says it is putting the money toward preservation of pandas in the wild in China. Pandas are an endangered species. Right now, there are only about 1,200 left. So, this is a cooperative program with the Chinese to try to increase pandas numbers.
Zoo officials call Mei Xiang and Tian Tian, "Ambassadors for a larger cause."
Q: How much bamboo do the pandas eat?
DAVIS: The pandas eat 100 pounds together of bamboo a day. On top of that, they get carrots, apples, cooked sweet potatoes and a special biscuit that has vitamins in it. The zookeepers say the two pandas have absolutely voracious appetites.
Q: What are the ultimate plans for these pandas?
DAVIS: The National Zoo hopes that when these pandas get older, they will produce a cub. If and when that cub is born, it would stay here in the United States for two years and then China would decide where it would go after that, because it would be China's property.
New pandas delight visitors in U.S. debut
Giant Pandas at the Smithsonian National Zoo
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