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Zoo Atlanta born panda twins experience some culture shock in China

Mei Lun and Mei Huan, the two twin pandas who recently made the trek from Zoo Atlanta to China, may be feeling a little homesick for ATL.

Read More: Saying goodbye to older set of panda twins at Zoo Atlanta

According to local reports, the pandas, who arrived at Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding in China on Nov. 5, are still adjusting to a new diet and a new language .

Pandas are shy with strangers and need company, explained Luo Yunhong, a breeder at the panda base, to  People's Daily Online .  He expressed concern that both bears love American crackers so much that handlers have had to mix it into apples, bamboo and water to get them to eat and drink.

The breeder said he has been slowly weaning them from the crackers by replacing it with Chinese bread. In addition, he has been helping them learn a new language.

MeiLun  and Mei Huan are not accustomed to hearing Sichuan dialect.

The twins respond to their names, but caretakers must use basic English phrases to get them to react to other commands. They have recently begun introducing simple phrases in the Sichuan dialect

Mei Lun is very lively,  jumping onto the roof and hanging upside down from a rail, according to reports from the local paper. Mei Huan, who is calmer than her older sister,  has adjusted a bit better to the new diet and enjoys lounging and eating bamboo.

Mei Lun and Mei Huan were born July 15, 2013 and are the fourth and fifth offspring of Lun Lun and Yang Yang, who have been on loan at Zoo Atlanta since 1999.

The three-year-old twins were the first surviving twins born in the U.S. As part of the loan agreement, all offspring of Lun Lun and Yang Yang are sent to China when they come of age.

The twins have three older siblings  who have also traveled to the Chengdu facility  in 2010 and 2014. Mei Lan, Xi Lan and Po had to adjust to a new culture as well.

In a 2014 letter to Zoo Atlanta, James Ayala, a keeper at Chengdu, noted that the eldest, Mei Lan was a hit with guests and had matured into a distinguished adult male .

At the time, Xi Lan and Po were in the quarantine area and were still adjusting to the Chengdu diet. Xi Lan made the transition a bit better than Po, Ayala said.

In September, Zoo Atlanta welcomed another set of giant panda twins. The public is invited to vote on their names which will be revealed Dec. 12 during the 100 Day Naming Celebration.

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About the Author

Nedra Rhone has been a features reporter with the AJC for 10 years. She’s written about everything from fashion to food to news.