Wanted: language tutor for panda

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The Independent Online

Moving abroad is often hard, but for singletons facing a language barrier it is even more difficult. It may be with this in mind that one of China's top panda breeding centres is seeking a language teacher, as well as a mate, for a female panda who flies to China from the US this week. Three-year-old Mei Lan, whose name means Beautiful Orchid, has been living at Zoo Atlanta in Georgia since her birth in September 2006. At her new home in Chengdu, where she will join a breeding programme, it is believed that a teacher will help her adapt faster.

"She will be taught Chinese with a Sichuan dialect," Cui Kai, a worker at the panda research centre, told AP. "She will be taught the phrases for going back to the cage or coming out from the dormitory."

Meanwhile, the centre is asking the public to choose a "boyfriend" for Mei Lan. Eight prospective candidates are listed online. Since giant pandas are known for being sexually inactive, the right choice could be crucial. Language skills are not among the listed criteria.