Giant pandas fascinate people more than most other animals. Their cuddly appearance is certainly a factor, along with their exotic nature - of around 1100 pandas alive today, only 15% live in captivity and only 20 are outside China. Hua Mei, whose name means "China-USA", quickly became a major attraction at the San Diego Zoo where she was born. Now that she is three years old, the Zoo is obligated to send her to China under the terms of the agreement by which her parents were sent here on loan.
Obviously a two-fisted eater, she is happy eating mainly bamboo. The Zoo staff placed her meal near the front of her enclosure, and on this early morning Hua Mei pleased everyone by sitting down facing her visitors as though posing. She surprised even the staff by spending such a long time there contentedly munching on her bamboo.