Image: Shark
Visitors look at the American-born panda Tai Shan walk at the Ya'an Bifeng Gorge Breeding Base in Sichuan province, China.
updated 3/9/2010 10:31:46 AM ET 2010-03-09T15:31:46

After a month in quarantine, American-born panda Tai Shan paced around his new home in southwest China as he was put on public display Tuesday for the first time since his much-anticipated arrival in the country.

Visitors and staff cheered and waved as the 4 1/2-year-old panda born and raised at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., rolled up in a cage carried on a bright green buggy to his enclosure at a panda breeding base in Sichuan province.

He was released into a 320-square-foot room attached to a large garden enclosure at the Ya'an Bifeng Gorge Breeding Base, where staff said Tai Shan was adjusting well to his new surrounding in his "motherland."

Tai Shan and another American-born giant panda, 3-year-old Mei Lan, were flown to China from the U.S. last month. Their parents were lent to U.S. zoos for conservation purposes.

Under a deal between China and the U.S., any lent pandas or cubs produced must eventually return to China where they become part of a breeding program.

Video: Panda returns to native land Since his arrival from the U.S., Tai Shan had been confined to a special quarantine enclosure closed to visitors at the breeding base, which is managed by the China Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda.

"After one month of his return, Tai Shan has gotten very used to the taste of the food, the smell of the air, the climate and the environment in his motherland. And he is getting along very well with his keepers, too," said Tang Chunxiang, the center's deputy director. "He is having a very happy life."

Mei Lan is also due to leave quarantine, but it was not immediately clear when she would be shown to the public.

Breeders were wasting no time planning how Tai Shan could help propagate his endangered species.

"We will give him enough freedom to reproduce. As soon as he becomes mature enough ... we will provide him different sex partners for him to choose. Of course now his is still too young for it," Tang said.

Giant pandas in captivity typically reach breeding age at around 5 or 6 years.

About 1,600 giant pandas live in the wild, and another 290 are in captive-breeding programs worldwide, mainly in China.

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