Panda to be taught Chinese language
Ni hao, hello, Mei Lan! Chinese zookeepers are advertising for a tutor to teach Chinese to an US-born giant panda arriving this week in its parents' homeland.
The language lessons, a special diet and even blind dates are also part of the red-carpet welcome being rolled out for three-year-old Mei Lan (meaning beautiful orchid) by Chinese caretakers before she arrives Friday on a FedEx flight from the US.
Under a deal between China and the US, all giant pandas originally from China are only lent out to foreign zoos for scientific study for several years. They and any cubs they produce must return to China eventually.
Determined to help Mei Lan adapt more quickly to its new life, the caretakers at its new home, the Chengdu Panda Breeding Research Center in the south-western province of Sichuan, are recruiting a language teacher via the Internet.
Mei Lan has lived at a zoo in Atlanta, Georgia, since her birth in 2006.
"Mei Lan has been living in the US since she was born, and she must be unfamiliar with Chinese," Huang Xiangming, director of the centre's animal management department, told the official Xinhua News Agency.
The centre has set up a website on the popular portal sina.com for Mei Lan, detailing the qualifications for a volunteer teacher: a bachelor's degree or higher, no history of infectious disease and good command of both English and Chinese.
"She will be taught Chinese with a Sichuan dialect because people here all speak Sichuan dialect. She will become familiar with some simple phrases," said Cui Kai, who works in the panda research centre.
"For example, she will be taught the phrases for going back to the cage or coming out from the dormitory."