9 Famous Giant Pandas in China You Need To Know

Last updated on January 15th, 2024 at 10:46 pm

Giant Pandas in China are highly cherished and considered a national treasure. They are native to the mountainous regions of Sichuan, Shaanxi, and Gansu provinces, where conservation efforts are focused on protecting their habitats. Its striking appearance and gentle nature make it a beloved wildlife conservation symbol. The China Panda’s iconic black and white markings have become synonymous with endangered species protection.

In a recent announcement, the Chinese government revealed plans to create a vast giant panda park stretching across three provinces, covering an impressive area of 27,112 square kilometers. However, over 173,000 individuals in the central Sichuan province will be relocated to accommodate this ambitious project. This commendable decision reflects the government’s commitment to panda conservation and preserving their natural habitat.

Pandas in China Overview

Mei Lan200 to 250 pounds5 to 6 feet
Hua Mei154 to 275 pounds4 to 6 feet
Pan Pan220 to 330 pounds5 to 6 feet
Shi Shi176 to 265 pounds3.9 to 4.9 feet
Mei Sheng220 to 250 pounds5 to 6 feet
Tao Tao176 to 275 pounds3.9 to 6.2 feet
Xiang Xiang220 and 330 pounds2 to 3 feet
Gu Gu220 to 250 pounds4 to 5 feet
Su Lin154 to 275 pounds2 to 3 feet

1. Mei Lan Pandas In China

Pandas in China

In a surprising turn of events in the giant panda world, Mei Lan, Zoo Atlanta’s initial panda cub, initially thought to be a female, has been revealed as a male. This revelation, discovered during an examination at the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding, marks a pivotal moment in Mei Lan’s journey.

Mei Lan, meaning “Atlanta Beauty,” departed his birthplace in Atlanta in February 2010, heading for the Chengdu Research Base in China, his parents’ homeland.

Born on September 6, 2006, Mei Lan’s gender was mistakenly identified as female 19 days after birth. Recent observations at the Chengdu Panda Base unveiled the presence of male reproductive organs, challenging the initial determination.

Insights from Dr. Rebecca Snyder

Dr. Rebecca Snyder, Zoo Atlanta’s Curator of Mammals, shed light on the complexities of sexing giant pandas. Mei Lan’s delayed examination was a strategic decision to avoid disrupting Lun Lun’s care as a first-time mother.

Giant pandas are typically sexed during early health checks as infants. Mei Lan’s examination at 19 days old, later than usual, emphasized the difficulty in accurate sexing, particularly if the cub is older.

Given Mei Lan’s case, Zoo Atlanta plans to recheck the sex of other young giant pandas, including Xi Lan and Po, during their upcoming physical exams, underscoring the importance of precision in sex determination.

Despite the surprising revelation, Mei Lan’s care and management in Atlanta remain consistent. His birth in 2006 was a monumental event, and knowing his true gender earlier wouldn’t have altered the decision to transfer him to Chengdu at three years old.

Mei Lan’s role in the breeding population remains significant, ensuring his contribution to the giant panda species’ survival. The unexpected news prompts a period of adjustment for the panda community.

Giant Panda Mei Lan Celebrates 7th Birthday

In a delightful scene at the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding in Chengdu, southwest China’s Sichuan Province, Mei Lan, the giant panda, marked its 7th birthday with a special pumpkin feast on May 29, 2023.

Pandas in China

2. Hua Mei Pandas In China

Born on August 21, 1999, Hua Mei stands as a remarkable figure in the giant panda world. As the first giant panda cub born in the USA to survive into adulthood, Hua Mei instantly captured the hearts of panda enthusiasts worldwide, becoming a beloved celebrity.

Hua Mei’s birth brought not only joy but also significance, being a symbol of hope and resilience. Surviving into adulthood, she paved the way for further advancements in giant panda breeding and conservation efforts.

A Popular Panda Mama

Following the devastating 2008 Sichuan earthquake that severely impacted the panda center in Wolong, Hua Mei faced relocation to the Bifengxia Panda Base in Ya’an. This move underscored her adaptability and resilience in challenging circumstances.

Hua Mei’s legacy extends beyond her survival. She has proven to be a prolific mother, with an impressive record of giving birth to 12 cubs. Among them are 4 sets of twins and 4 single cubs. The most recent addition to her growing panda family was a set of twins born in 2018.

Hua Mei’s family tree spans across various panda centers. Her half-brother, Mei Sheng, ventured to the Wolong Panda Center in November 2007. Meanwhile, her half-sisters, Su Lin, and Zhen Zhen, relocated to the Bifengxia Panda Center in September 2010. Another half-brother, Yun Zi, returned to China in 2014, marking the dispersal of Hua Mei’s family across different panda conservation centers.

Farewell to San Diego Zoo

In a poignant turn of events, Hua Mei’s youngest half-sibling, Xiao Li Wu, and her mother, Bai Yun, bid farewell to the San Diego Zoo in May 2019, signaling the end of giant pandas at the zoo. The departure marks a transition in the zoo’s panda conservation efforts.

Pandas in China

3. Pan Pan Pandas In China

In a quiet departure that echoes globally, Pan Pan, the world’s oldest male panda, passed away in China’s Sichuan province. Despite his anonymity to many, Pan Pan played a pivotal role, fathering over 130 panda descendants and contributing to 25% of all pandas in captivity.

Fondly remembered for his “energy and vitality,” Pan Pan’s influence peaked in the 1990s, marking a breakthrough with the first panda cub to survive in a captive breeding environment.

His legacy spans the world, with his family residing in zoos from California to Thailand and Edinburgh. Pan Pan’s impact extends beyond borders, shaping the presence of pandas in zoos globally.

At 31 years old, Pan Pan’s passing symbolizes the end of an era in panda conservation. His life, equivalent to over 100 human years, leaves a lasting impression on the China Panda Protection and Research Center. Pan Pan’s arrival brought hope, rejuvenating the center during a challenging time in panda breeding.

Pandas in China

4. Shi Shi Pandas In China

The formidable giant panda, Shi Shi, was taken from the wilds of Sichuan in 1992, marking the beginning of an extraordinary journey. Initially, they intended Shi Shi to be the companion of Bai Yun at the San Diego Zoo. However, they later realized that Shi Shi’s age was higher than originally estimated. Shi Shi, also known as “Rock Rock,” abandoned his role as Bai Yun’s partner and took up residence in Guangzhou province, located in southern China. He provided solace and support to those around him until his eventual passing in 2008.

5. Mei Sheng Pandas In China

Mei Sheng, the panda with a name that signifies “Born in the USA,” originally hails from the San Diego Zoo in the United States. Despite being born long after the release of Bruce Springsteen’s iconic song, Mei Sheng became a living inspiration reminiscent of the American spirit. Although he now resides in Sichuan, China, his journey from the USA to his current home has captivated the hearts of many.

Pandas in China

6. Tao Tao Pandas In China

In a recent event, staff from the China Conservation and Research Center for Giant Panda (CCRCGP) recaptured Tao Tao, a giant panda released into Liziping Nature Reserve in 2012, for a health check.

Thoroughly examined by a team of vets, Tao Tao exhibited robust health, weighing 115 kilograms. Cheng Yanxi, a vet at the center, reported, “The fur on his back and his subcutaneous fat storage are all quite good. We didn’t find any external parasites. He is very clean, very pretty. There’s not much abrasion on his teeth. We will next take his blood sample. We’ve taken many samples.”

Following the examination, Tao Tao was released again on Friday at noon after the staff replaced his tracking chip. Continuous monitoring will contribute to ongoing research on his well-being.

Born on Aug 3, 2010, in a semi-wild environment, Tao Tao’s upbringing followed the unique “panda parenting” approach. Raised by his mother to learn survival skills, he became the first released panda to acquire survival training without human interaction.

Tao Tao’s positive physical record stands as a testament to the success of “panda parenting,” showcasing a method that allows giant pandas to thrive in a semi-wild environment with minimal human intervention.

7. Xiang Xiang Pandas In China

Japanese-born giant panda Xiang Xiang arrived Tuesday in China from a Tokyo zoo after large crowds bid farewell to the 6-year-old bear who became hugely popular in Japan but was sent to her parent’s home country to start a search for a mate.

Xiang Xiang traveled to China’s Chengdu Shuangliu International Airport aboard a charter flight, accompanied by two zoo employees watching her closely.

As both her parents were on loan from China, the country maintains ownership over all cubs born to them. Xiang Xiang, born at the zoo in June 2017 to father Ri Ri and mother Shin Shin, was the Ueno Zoological Gardens’ first naturally conceived giant panda. Her transfer came a day before a further three pandas on loan from China were to be sent to the country from a zoo in western Japan’s Wakayama Prefecture.

Some 300 people gathered at the observation deck of Narita Airport near Tokyo to see Xiang Xiang take off.

“I want to thank her for making so many people happy,” said zoo director Yutaka Fukuda. “I hope (that her transfer to China) will contribute to panda conservation research.”

As Xiang Xiang was driven slowly out of the zoo at around 7:10 a.m., some people could be seen wearing panda items while others had tears in their eyes. They waved enthusiastically while zoo employees and security staff looked on.

Yumiko Ushijima rushed to the capital on the first train from neighboring Kanagawa Prefecture to see Xiang Xiang off. “I’ll miss her, but I want her to become a good parent like her mother, Shin Shin,” the 69-year-old woman said.

The Chinese Embassy in Tokyo said pandas have delivered friendship and goodwill widely throughout Japanese society, uniting the hearts of the people of both countries.

8. Gu Gu Pandas In China

Gu Gu, a male giant panda residing at the Beijing Zoo in China, was born in 1999 at the Wolong National Nature Reserve. Son to Pan Pan and mother number 21, Gu Gu was chosen as a breeding candidate for the Capital Zoo in October 2004.

Weighing an impressive 242 pounds (110 kilograms), Gu Gu gained international fame not for his fur’s whiteness but for two notable incidents. In September 2006, he bit the legs of an intoxicated man who jumped into his enclosure in an attempt to hug him. A year later, a 15-year-old boy climbed into the panda exercise area out of curiosity, leading to another forceful reaction from Gu Gu, who bit the boy on both legs.

These incidents, driven by Gu Gu’s instinct to protect his territory, marked the beginning of a unique reputation for this feisty giant panda. Subsequent biting incidents in 2009 and 2012 further solidified Gu Gu’s place as an unforgettable character in the world of giant pandas.

9. Su Lin Pandas In China

Su Lin, a name translated to “a little bit of something very cute” in Chinese, is the third cub born to Bai Yun and the second to father Gao Gao. Conceived through natural mating, Su Lin made her public debut in early December 2005 and was weaned in early 2007. Alongside her sister Zhen Zhen, she returned to the Bifengxia Panda Base on September 24, 2010.

The history of giant pandas in the United States traces back to December 1936 when the first giant panda, a three-month-old cub named Su Lin, arrived in California. Carried by American socialite Ruth Harkness, Su Lin marked the beginning of panda mania in the country. Zoos, captivated by the charm of these unique animals, sought to host them, leading to a surge in panda popularity.

Between 1936 and 1946, a total of 14 pandas were taken from China by foreigners, according to the World Wildlife Federation (WWF). However, by 1946, China closed its doors to foreign panda hunters. The early 1950s saw a decline in the panda population in the United States, with Su Lin and others passing away at various zoos.

Su Lin’s arrival and the subsequent fascination with pandas in the U.S. marked a significant chapter in the history of panda diplomacy and global efforts for giant panda conservation.


In conclusion, these giant pandas have made a lasting impact on conservation and captured the world’s attention. Basi, the oldest captive giant panda, inspired people globally and contributed to her species. Hua Mei, the first cub raised in the United States, made significant contributions and highlighted panda conservation. Pan Pan, the renowned “Panda Grandpa,” left a remarkable legacy and captivated people worldwide. Their stories emphasize the importance of panda conservation and the need to protect these extraordinary animals for future generations. Let us celebrate their achievements and support the preservation of giant pandas for a brighter future.


1. How did the panda get its colors?

The panda’s distinctive black and white colors remain a mystery. One theory suggests that pandas developed this contrasting palette for visibility in the forest, aiding them in finding mates. Another idea proposes that the coloration serves to camouflage pandas in bamboo or treetops. The unique markings on each panda and the existence of a rare brown and white variation add to the enigma. Scientists are yet to confirm the true purpose of the panda’s coloration.

2. Are giant pandas bears?

After years of speculation about their classification, scientific studies of the genetic code (DNA) in pandas’ cells have confirmed their relationship with bears. Giant pandas share similarities with other bears in appearance, locomotion, skull characteristics, social structure, and reproductive biology. Understanding that pandas are indeed bears is crucial for effective conservation efforts to support their reproduction and survival.

3. What can YOU do to help pandas?

Individuals often inquire about ways to contribute to panda conservation. Making simple lifestyle changes can have a significant impact, such as being mindful of product origins, making sustainable choices, and reducing overall consumption. Supporting wood products certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) ensures responsible forest management. FSC-certified items, including bamboo products, originate from verified and responsibly harvested sources. By incorporating these practices, individuals can actively participate in the preservation of these beloved creatures.



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