Some random panda facts:
• “Mei Lan,” loosely translated, means “Atlanta Beauty.” More than 53,000 people voted for that name in a contest. The zoo held a whoop-de-doo marking her naming, observing a a Chinese custom of naming children 100 days after their birth.
• She is not the first Mei Lan to delight visitors. A panda at Brookfield Zoo near Chicago had it first more than 60 years ago. A big-eared brute, in 1946 he chomped off the right hand of an inattentive keeper.
• Atlanta is one of four U.S. zoos with pandas. Others are the National Zoo in Washington, Memphis Zoo and San Diego Zoo. All pandas are on loan from China.
• Pandas like bamboo, but they’re not above eating a little meat, if they stumble across it. They are omnivores.
• Pandas do not come cheap. Mei Lan’s parents, Lun Lun and Yang Yang, came here only after the zoo inked an agreement that gave China $1.1 million annually. That contract has been extended, and reduced to $570,000 annually. Popular pandas draw more visitors to the zoo, though, meaning they helped defray those costs . A surge in visits was reported when Mei Lan arrived, followed two years later by kid brother Xi Lan.
• When she was born, Mei Lan weighed 4 shaky little ounces. She now weighs about 200 pounds.
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