Two young giant-panda twins born in the United States have returned home to China, but are struggling to adapt to the language and food, according to Chinese state media.
The 3-year-old sisters, Mei Lun and Mei Huan, were the first surviving panda twins to be born in the United States, and were returned to China from Zoo Atlanta on Nov. 5.
But the pair still understand English better than Chinese, and prefer American crackers to Chinese bread, according the People’s Daily.
Luo Yunhong, a breeder at the Chengdu Giant Panda Research Base, told the paper that his main concern is that the pair are so addicted to American crackers that everything they eat — from bamboos to apples — has to be mixed with crackers. They even want to snack on crackers when drinking water.
Luo is trying to wean them off their cracker habit, gradually replacing the American food with Chinese bread. Mei Huan is adapting, but Mei Lun doesn’t want to touch the unfamiliar bread.
The twin’s parents are on loan to Atlanta Zoo from China, and under that agreement any cubs born in the United States are supposed to return to their native country before age 4.
Mei Lun is the livelier of the two, often jumping onto the roof and hanging upside door from a rail, but her slightly younger sister Mei Huan is calmer, preferring to sit still, observe her new environment and occasionally snack on bamboo.
Luo also reported a language barrier. While the pair respond to their own names, and understand some English phrases such as “come here,” they don’t understand the Sichuan dialect of Chinese used on the base. Luo said he is trying to teach them, starting with simple phrases such as “Chi le mei de?” (Have you eaten yet?)
The news provoked some mirth on Chinese social media, with some users commenting that the pandas would soon get used to Sichuan’s famously spicy cuisine.
Others wondered about the panda’s transition from democracy to one-party rule.
“Although you born in capitalism, you have to come back to build socialism,” one user commented.
“It does not matter whether they can understand Sichuanese,” wrote another. “I am afraid that they will ask the zoo for freedom and democracy.”
No post about pandas would be complete without a video, so here's one about their first 100 days.
And here is a short film about their journey back to China.
Jin Xin contributed to this report.