The unremarkable touchdown of a small cargo jet at a landing strip near Lindbergh Field on September 10, 1996, was the beginning of the San Diego Zoo’s biggest event in years—two giant pandas, Bai Yun and Shi Shi, had arrived from the Wolong Panda Preserve in China to begin a 12-year conservation research stay at the Zoo. Plans for this event had been many years in the making, but at long last, the black-and-white bears had come to San Diego.
The pandas were met on the tarmac by San Diego Zoo keepers and veterinarians. The bears in their traveling crates were loaded into a moving truck, and the small entourage was accompanied by a personal panda escort from the San Diego Highway Patrol during the drive to the Zoo. An exciting chapter in the Zoological Society’s history had begun.