Nightly News   |  January 12, 2014

China Welcomes Its Newest Panda

A U.S.-born panda returns to China as part of an effort to save the endangered species. NBC News’ Ian Williams reports.

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>>> finally, tonight, a special homecoming is being celebrated in china for one of its own. born in this country, but now in chinese custody for the first time in his life. as ian williams reports, his return to china was artfully arranged.

>> reporter: nervously exploring his new chinese home sunday, after two days travel halfway around the world from his birthplace in southern california . the 4 1/2-year-old giant panda was born in san diego 's zoo, where he has been enormously popular and where his mother lives. she is leased from china. part of the agreement, cubs must be returned. settling in here can be a challenge. new keepers, new food. everything is different.

>> yeah, yeah, different. so they need to adapt.

>> reporter: even the language. having spent his first years with english-speaking keepers, will he initially be quarantined at this new center for the rehabilitation and care of ill and injured giant pandas . his names include chan chan , and other youngsters born in captivity . this 1-year-old panda is in pretty good shape. by the time it's open it will be home to more than 30 pandas. giant pandas are among the most endangered pandas. he isn't the only panda to have arrived in china in recent days. massive art work, 50-feet tall, weighing 13 tons and clinging to the side of the new international finance square, the creation of denver-based artist lawrence sergeant.

>> to make people conscious of the plight of the panda.

>> reporter: it's also part of a charity project designed to raise funds for the rehab center. and all being well, the youngster from san diego will soon join china's giant panda breeding program.

>>> that's "nbc nightly news" for