Published: 09:50, July 5, 2023 | Updated: 10:24, July 5, 2023
Wishes pour in as Beijing Zoo's celebrity panda turns 8
By Chen Meiling

Giant panda Meng Lan celebrates his eighth birthday at the Beijing Zoo, July 4, 2023. (WANG JING / CHINA DAILY)

Meng Lan, the giant panda at Beijing Zoo whose broad set of acrobatic skills have earned him the sobriquet "Kung fu Panda", celebrated his eighth birthday on Tuesday with a cake made of apples, carrots and steamed corn bread, and with well wishes from tens of thousands of fans, many of whom waited in line for hours to catch a glimpse of the celebrity bear.

Guo Yujie, 24, who came from Chuzhou, Anhui province, said she arrived at the zoo around 10 am and managed to see Meng Lan roughly four hours later.

"I didn't mind the wait. My dream came true today. He was eating the entire time. What a foodie!" said Guo, who has been following videos on Meng Lan's antics for quite sometime. "He's cute, energetic and irresistibly attractive," she added.

Giant panda Meng Lan celebrates his eighth birthday at the Beijing Zoo, July 4, 2023. (WANG JING / CHINA DAILY)

Zhou Qiaoxuan, who studies in Beijing, waited for three hours to wish her favorite panda a happy birthday. "I hope to see Meng Lan today. I also hope he and other giant pandas are well protected," she said.

At 2:30 pm, there were about 600 visitors waiting in line at the zoo to see Meng Lan, but the popular panda decided to put on airs and retired to his shed after making a brief appearance. Fans nevertheless kept cheering the giant fur ball and wished him a happy and healthy panda life.

Two years ago, Meng Lan made headlines after he attempted a bold escape from his enclosure. Videos of him climbing the fence and flipping over went viral. Though admonished by his keepers after the incident, the naughty panda keeps at it. A photo once captured him "stealing" keys from a keeper, and he has also been spotted trying to dismantle surveillance cameras.

Visitors take photos of giant panda Meng Lan at the Beijing Zoo, July 4, 2023. (WANG JING / CHINA DAILY)

When he is not plotting an escape, Meng Lan is busy regaling the crowd with his "kung fu skills". He is often seen doing sit-ups and splits between branches, and is a pro when it comes to scaling walls. In fact, his climbing skills have prompted zoo authorities to increase the height of the fence at his enclosure.

The mischievous bear also has a generous side. He shares his food with birds, which, along with his antics, has won him over 245,000 fans on Sina Weibo.

As of 8 pm on Tuesday, the Weibo hot search "Meng Lan's birthday "had received about 66 million views. Well wishes poured in online, with netizens commenting on his birthday videos and photos. One user wrote that Meng Lan "always lifts my spirits" and "the Earth cannot live without giant pandas".

Giant panda twins Hehua and Heye celebrate their third birthday at the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding in Sichuan province, July 4, 2023. Hehua and Heye are half twin brother and sister of Meng Lan. (XIAO ZAN / PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY)

On Monday, the zoo released Meng Lan's birthday logo. The limited edition logo was available for download till 6 pm on Tuesday. Merchandise, including brollies and T-shirts, with Meng Lan's images are still available online.

Meng Lan was born in 2015 at Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding in Sichuan province. He moved to Beijing Zoo in September 2017.

Tuesday was also the third birthday of Meng Lan's sister He Hua and brother He Ye who live in Chengdu.

Cui Yutong and Zhou Bowen contributed to this story.