PETALING JAYA (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Malaysians will soon have to bid "zai jian" (farewell) to the second giant panda cub born in the country.
Yi Yi's return to China is pending confirmation from Chinese authorities.
Zoology, Veterinary Hospital and Giant Panda Conservation Centre director Dr Mat Naim Ramli said in its last discussion with the Chinese authorities, the Malaysian side was told to wait until November or December to finalise the date for Yi Yi's return.
"Once the date has been confirmed, the government will make the announcement, " he said when contacted on Sunday (Sept 27).
Mr Mat Naim added that due to Covid-19 concerns, the preliminary discussions had centred on sending Yi Yi to China without any companion.
"We also suggested that Yi Yi be accompanied on the flight there and upon landing in China, it would be received by the Chinese authorities.
"This way, the companions need not disembark from the aircraft and they can return to Malaysia straight away, " he said.
He added, however, that this would depend on whether the cargo-handling company would allow such a procedure.
"The procedure will not be finalised until there is confirmation from the Chinese authorities on the date for Yi Yi's return, " he said.
Born in January 2018, Yi Yi, whose name means friendship, currently weighs 88kg.
Bamboo, panda cake and fruits are the favourite treats of the female cub, the second offspring of Xing Xing and Liang Liang.
The panda couple, which are on a 10-year loan from China, arrived in Malaysia in 2014 to mark 40 years of diplomatic ties between the two countries.
The first baby, Nuan Nuan, returned to China in November 2017 after turning two years old.
Mr Mat Naim had accompanied Nuan Nuan on her trip back home.
The cub was then sent to the Dujiangyan Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding in Sichuan province.
Under the Malaysia-China Giant Panda International Conservation Agreement, any panda cub born in Malaysia is to be returned to China at the age of two.