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Panda cub sleeps for first step of trip back to China

A baby panda successfully born in captivity at the world's oldest zoo in the Austrian capital Vienna has been sent back to China.

All of the giant pandas in captivity remain the property of China and even those few that live outside the country remain the property of the People's Republic - with an agreement in place that any offspring need to be returned to China within two years of being born.

Although giant pandas rarely breed outside of the reservations in their Chinese homeland the Schönbrunn Zoo in Vienna has been the only one in Europe to successfully produce offspring with their pair of pandas.

Panda cub Fu Hu was the second to be born after Fu Long, who is three years older - and although they have never met the pair will be together on the same reserve once Fu Hu is back in China.

Zookeepers had already been preparing the panda cub for the long trip back to his Chinese homeland by rewarding him with carrots and sweet potatoes every time he climbs into the travel cage now being used to transport him.

The cage was also temporarily closed and lifted into the air to make him used to the experience - and the start of his journey by lorry to the airport in Amsterdam was reportedly without incident. From Amsterdam the panda will be flown to Chengdu, and then driven the last few kilometres to the giant panda station in China.

In fact his keeper Renata Haider who is travelling with him said he had slept most of the way so far.

She said: "This strategy for getting him used to the cage worked very well with his brother Fu Long, when he was shipped back to China he was very relaxed over the whole journey and simply ate bamboo or slept."

Once back in China he will end up at the panda research Centre at Bifengxia where his brother is also located.

Zoo director Dagmar Schratter said it was time for the young panda to move on anyway: "At this stage the young pandas will leave their parents anyway when they are in the wild. We had already been noticing that his mother Yang Yang was starting to get a bit fed up with him. He has learnt all that he can from his mum - he know needs to get to know pandas of the same age."

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