This week, FedEx used one of its aircraft to pivot away from the carrier’s typical parcel delivery business and flew three giant pandas from the National Zoo back to China. The flight left from Washington, D.C. on Wednesday, November 8th, and arrived in Chengdu, China, on the morning of November 9th.
FedEx Flew the National Zoo Pandas on a Plane Dubbed the “Panda Express”
FedEx transported the three bears named Tian Tian, Mei Xiang, and Xiao Qi Ji on a FedEx “Panda Express” Boeing 777F aircraft fitted with a custom decal of a panda face. Th
According to FedEx spokespeople, the pandas rode along in “custom-built transport enclosures.” There were no other passengers or cargo on the plane other than supplies for their needs, such as 220 pounds of bamboo for the journey. In addition to the bamboo—the main nourishment which giant pandas subsist on—the zoo said in a Twitter statement that pandas also traveled with “8 pounds of leafeater biscuits, 5 pounds of low starch biscuits, 6 pounds of apples, 5 pounds of carrots, 6 pounds of sweet potatoes, 3 pounds of sugar cane, 1 pound of pears and 1 pound of cooked squash.”
A Background on Panda Bears in the United States
China loaned Tian Tian and Mei Xiang to the U.S. in 2000, arriving at the National Zoo as part of an agreement between the zoo and China Wildlife and Conservation Association. Tian Tian and Mei Xang were originally supposed to stay for only 10 years, but China and the U.S. extended the agreement several times, and the pair lived at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute for over two decades. Xiao Qi Ji, the pair’s fourth surviving cub, was born there in 2020.
The first pandas from China arrived at the National Zoo in 1972 as part of a breeding effort. The zoo has served as a residence for panda couples until now. Following the National Zoo pandas’ departure, only four giant pandas remain in America: Lun Lun and Yang Yang, the giant pandas at the Atlanta Zoo, and their offspring Ya Lun and Xi Lun. The U.S. expects to send that panda family back to China in 2024.