U.S.-born panda twins struggle in China as they know only English

Sisters Meilun and Meihuan still prefer American crackers to Chinese bread ... and Chinese is Latin to them.

Updated - December 02, 2016 04:19 pm IST

Published - November 17, 2016 06:10 pm IST - BEIJING:

Two pandas enjoying an intimate moment at the Chengdu Panda Research Station in this file photo. (Only for representative purpose).

Two pandas enjoying an intimate moment at the Chengdu Panda Research Station in this file photo. (Only for representative purpose).

Two United States-born giant panda twins, currently in China, are struggling to adjust to the local food and language as they only know English, the state media reported on Thursday.

Three-year-old Meilun and Meihuan are struggling to follow Chinese, specially the Sichuan dialect, as they can only understand English. They are gradually getting used to life in China after their arrival early this month.

However, they have not shed all their old habits; they still prefer American crackers to Chinese bread, and know English better than Chinese, state-run People’s Daily reported.

The pandas arrived at the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding on November 5 from the Atlanta Zoo. The twins were born in the U.S. Their mother, Lun Lun, gave birth to another set in September.

On loan from China

The giant pandas are on loan from China. As part of the agreement, all adult offspring are sent to China when they’re of age.

Meilun is very lively, often jumping onto the roof and hanging upside down from a rail. Unlike her elder sister, Meihuan is much calmer. She prefers to sit still and observe her new environment, occasionally snacking on bamboo.

Pandas are shy with strangers and need company, explained Luo Yunhong, a breeder at the panda base.

Luo’s main worry about the pandas’ transition is that they both love American crackers so much that everything they eat — from bamboo to apples and even water — must be mixed with the crackers. To help them get used to food in China, Luo has been gradually replacing the crackers with Chinese bread.

Dialect difficulty

Another problem is that Meilun and Meihuan cannot understand Sichuan dialect; only hearing their names can make them raise their heads.

In contrast, they react to a number of basic words in English, such as “Come here“.

Luo has been recording their stool samples and body temperatures every day, as well as providing daily updates to the Exit-Entry and Quarantine Bureau of Chengdu.

According to the officer, the sisters are gradually getting used to their new lives.

There are more than 1,300 wild pandas in Sichuan, 15 per cent more than 10 years ago. The number of captive pandas in Sichuan is more than 360, accounting for 86.3 per cent of all captive pandas nationwide.

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