THAILAND - The countdown for "superstar" panda Lin Ping's trip to China has begun in earnest. Born in Thailand, the giant panda is scheduled to leave for Chengdu next Saturday on September 28.
She will spend one year there, during which she is expected to choose a mate. The couple will then head back to Thailand together for a 15-year stay under an agreement made between Thailand and China.
Countdown activities are now being held at Chiang Mai Zoo.
"These activities, which include paintings and a photo contest, will go on until September 28," said Dr Singtong Buechoom yesterday, in his capacity as a member of the committee on panda policy and supervision.
Lin Ping was born to Chuang Chuang and Lin Hui, who were lent to Thailand by the Chinese government. The panda family has been living at Chiang Mai Zoo and have proved to be a powerful attraction for tourists.
Zoological Park Organisation's director-general, Sanchai Jullamon, said Lin Ping was now healthy and ready for the trip. "Veterinarians will accompany her," he said.
Zoo officials planned to test the panda's response to a land-transport ride on Wednesday. "We will put her in a cage and give her a ride," Sanchai said.
However, he said it was not yet concluded whether the test-ride would be made within the zoo compound or along a route to Chiang Mai Airport - further discussions were needed.
Tourists who got a glimpse of Lin Ping at the zoo yesterday said they would visit her again when she returns.
To date, Lin Ping is the only giant panda to be born in Thailand.