For the first time in her life, Hua Mei will set foot on her motherland, enjoying the sunshine and bamboo in the place where her parents were born and grew up.
The giant panda born in the United States in 1999 is expected to arrive in Beijing Thursday afternoon by air.
Hua Mei -- the first word means China and the second means the United States -- was daughter to Shi Shi and Bai Yun, a panda couple leased to the San Diego Zoo in California by China.
Hua Mei is the first overseas-born Chinese giant panda to return.
Altogether 26 giant pandas were given as gifts by China to nine countries in the period from 1957 to 1982.
China decided to no longer present giant pandas as gifts to other countries in 1985. Instead, the endangered animal can only go abroad by means of leasing and their cubs born in foreign countries belong to China.
Hua Mei is a product of artificial fertilization, the first of the technology that was born in the United States and survived.
After receiving quarantine in Beijing, Hua Mei is expected to leave for the Wolong Nature Preserve, dubbed a paradise of wild life in southwest China's Sichuan Province, Friday. The preserve established in 1963 boasts some 100 giant pandas.
However, Hua Mei can enjoy the wildness with other pandas only after a period of isolation for quarantine in the preserve, said sources with the State Forestry Administration.
Hua Mei's father Shi Shi returned to Wolong in January last year. Currently, three giant pandas are living in the San Diego Zoo, namely, Bai Yun, her second husband Gao Gao, and their son Mei Sheng born last year.
A Japan-born male giant panda named Xiong Bang is also expected to return to China later this year, the sources said.
The sources said both Hua Mei and Xiong Bang are in good shape and will be incorporated into the country's giant panda breeding plan.
(Xinhua News Agency February 12, 2004)