Deepening the bonds of human and panda by cross-border. Transporting 3 giant pandas to China based on 3 parties’ cooperation.
Deepening the bonds of human and panda by cross-border. Transporting 3 giant pandas to China based on 3 parties’ cooperation.
Process of safely transporting 3 pandas, “Eimei” “Ouhin” “Touhin”, back to China
On February 22, 2023, 3 giant pandas, “Eimei” “Ouhin” “Touhin”, raised in the amusement park Adventure World, located at Wakayama Prefecture, took off to China. “Eimei”, born in 1992 at the Beijing Zoo, arrived in Japan in 1994. Approximately for 29 years, 16 cubs were fathered, and is known for “the world’s oldest giant panda of natural mating under the present breeding. The twin daughters, “Ouhin” and “Touhin”, are also the cubs of “Eimei”.
Until safely transporting these pandas back to China, the 3 parties, ANA Cargo playing the role of the air transport between Japan ~ China, the shipper Adventure World, and Nankai Express responsible for the ground transport in Japan, closely cooperated as one team to overcome many difficulties.
This time’s project, when considering the aged “Eimei” of 30 years old, was an unprecedented delicate animal transport. The processes of clearing each hurdle tackled by the 3 parties, such as materials for the transfer, temperature control for the pandas sensitive to temperature change, will be focused.
Adventure World x Nankai Express x ANA Cargo
~ How the 3 parties overcame the issues in harmony ~
The objective of this project is to conserve species of panda as well as for the continuous research of breeding. Until now, the 3 parties have repeatedly performed the panda transport, and this was the 5th time.
Towards the departure date of February 22, the 3 parties closely discussed on how to proceed. For this transport, different from the past impacted by the recent Corona disaster, various barriers existed in front of them.
In the past, pandas, loaded on the passenger flight as a cargo, could depart directly bound for Chengdu with the accompanying staff. However, due to the COVID-19, direct service to Chengdu was suspended. Furthermore, the transport could not be smoothly processed by the Chinese strict “zero-COVID” policy restricting such as quarantine or immigration formalities of the attendant staff. Communication with the Chengdu Airport in China was repeatedly conducted until the acceptance for pandas was well prepared. While acquiring the permission from the aviation authorities of both countries, charter flight was arranged, establishing the basis for the transport. Quite a few discussions among the 3 parties were held, and upon elaborate on-site inspection, the task or issues related to the transport were resolved.
Many hurdles were cleared based on the combined knowledge and know-how of the 3 parties, ANA Cargo a professional in air transportation, Adventure World familiar with panda’s behaviour or characteristics, and Nankai Express experiencing numbers of cargo transport as a forwarder.
“Eimei” -- 30 years old male. Arrived at the amusement park in 1994 and has
contributed as a “great
panda giving birth to 16 cubs. A giant panda, nearly 90 in human age.
“Ouhin” & “Touhin” -- Both 8 years old female. The very first female twins born in the Adventure World. They are also the children of “Eimei”.
Pandas have the characteristics of being weak against the heat, but strong in the cold, while sensitive to loud noise. Utmost attention shall be paid for their transport.
Absolutely no failure was allowed.
Careful transfer simulation from the
Adventure World was
repeated by the
And finally in February 2023, the departure date of the 3 pandas came.
The most critical problem of this time’s panda transport was about the aged “Eimei”. Panda has the characteristics to be sensitive to heat, vibration, or noise. Compared to other animal transport, even more delicate handling is required. And still more for an aged panda. Even if a tiny little thing is overlooked, it may exhaust the panda’s physical strength. Such as containers, cages, or pallets to be loaded on the flight, close attention had to be paid to the detailed parts.
“Absolutely no failure was allowed” -- The 3 parties repeatedly made reconfirmation and closely cooperated together.
Simulation of pandas’ transfer ~ loading was performed in advance. The
same truck, containers, or
be used for the actual transport was prepared, while confirming the
expected delicate movement
“When 3 pandas were transported in 2017, a simulation was conducted by only ourselves, but as for this time, due to it being an unprecedented case, the 3 parties repeatedly performed careful simulation”, says Mr. Kazumasa Mashiba, the giant panda breeder of Adventure World.
Mashiba; “When transporting, the panda cages are to be loaded on the pallet and required to be fixed with lashing belts. However, if the belts are tied in a normal way, the panda may pull them into the cage with their nails which may possibly lead to an accident. In order to avoid such a case, a wooden board was inserted between the belt and the cage, or to adjust the distance of the cages so as the pandas will not interfere with each other. Owing to the arrangements and close confirmation of the materials or process management, the entire operation could be reliably performed.”
By repeated close check on the specification of the cage or container and the temperature during the transport, a sense of insecurity was totally relieved. And the departure date, February 22 arrived.
More than 200 staff of Adventure World gathered and held their breath, while watching the 3 pandas, “Eimei” “Ouhin” “Touhin”, being carried out from the backyard and loaded on the truck.
The 3 pandas were loaded on the truck. Thanks to the simulation, everything went smoothly. Staff in charge of Nankai Express was preparing for the loading from the early morning. Thorough sanitary control was applied, such as placing a tray underneath the cage as a countermeasure of excrement treatment.
Mashiba; “The 3 pandas seemed to be a bit nervous when being transferred, but overall, they were extremely calm. Though “Ouhin”, a panda with more or less sensitive character, looked uneasy until being loaded, but to our relief, no abnormality such as breathing was recognized. “Eimei”, throughout the whole process was calm eating lots of bamboo. It can be said that each panda’s character was exposed.”
The bamboo which the pandas were eating during the transport was newly planted 3 years ago preparing for this future transport. “Eimei”, known as a gourmet panda, especially like this bamboo, and was reported that he was eating all the way during the transfer until the aircraft took off.
And Nakai Express’ truck departed Adventure World with 3 pandas loaded. The baton was handed over from Adventure World to Nankai Express, and the 2 parties' joint operations started.
Safe & secured transport based on close communication. Courteous consideration & high skill of Nankai Express
The truck departed Adventure World located in Wakayama Prefecture, heading for Kansai International Airport in Osaka. The distance and the transport time is approximately 120km and 3 hours, respectively.
On the day of the departure, 4 members of the Nankai Express transport team were assigned. A team in charge of special cargo transport, such as animals & pharmaceuticals.
Regarding this time’s panda transport, specific temperature to be applied during the flight was required by Adventure World. To protect “Eimei” under the coldest month of mid February throughout the entire year, a certain temperature needs to be maintained. In addition, closest attention had to be paid not to cause any damages by vibration or noise until arriving at the Kansai International Airport. How was such extremely delicate transport achieved?
Maki; “Since the transport temperature was one of the main concerns of Adventure World, a 4 ton truck available to maintain temperature-control stably between 10 ~ 20℃ was used. Upon observing the panda’s condition on the departure day, the temperature was preset at 13℃. Usually, this truck is used for cargo, such as pharmaceuticals, not allowing temperature deviation, but upon repeated internal study in the company, it was arranged as the best option. As for the build-up also, thorough confirmation was conducted to make sure it would be performed as the simulation.”
The arrangement of the temperature-controlled truck, as well as the build-up to reduce the stress of the pandas, 4 members, as one same team, repeatedly made studies. Furthermore, in general, transport tends to be impacted by troubles such as congestion caused by traffic conditions. The stress of traffic jams is not exceptional for pandas. So, how was this time’s transport?
Maki; “We were also worried about the traffic condition, but could deliver on schedule without delay. Separate from the truck drivers team with the pandas, the other members followed the truck confirming the traffic situation, and made contact at each point designated in advance with the staff of Adventure World and ANA Cargo accompanying on other cars."
Paying close attention to the driving speed or the distance between the truck and other cars, the pandas were safely transported without being involved in any traffic congestion nor accident. Especially, periodical reporting on the transport schedule made everyone feel secure.
Shioji; “Quite frequently we were making contacts with both ANA Cargo and Adventure World. It was important to share the same schedule with everyone concerned in a timely manner by reporting the actual location of the truck and even the place of road construction in detail. Also, in line with the Adventure World’s request to “keep confidentiality to the possible extent for safe transport”, when stopping at the service area to check the health conditions of the pandas, the back door was opened and conducted in low profile not to attract attention of the people nearby.”
This time’s panda transport attracted high public awareness. To reduce the burdens of the pandas and the concerned staff, various ideas are indispensable.
So the truck safely arrived at the Kansai International Airport. After entering the warehouse, upon completing the customs clearance procedures such as documents submission or quarantine inspection, unloading of the 3 pandas started. And also, from the confidentiality perspective, information with the neighbouring companies or the handlers were shared beforehand to avoid troubles. Due to the smooth progress of the approval for the documents and declaration, sufficient time was secured.
3 pandas safely arrived at Kansai International Airport. After checking the health of each panda by Adventure World’s staff, upon confirming the positive result, they were unloaded from the truck with forklift and the build-up on the containers to be loaded on the aircraft is proceeded.
Adventure World’s staff giving bamboo to “Touhin” on standby. Container door is removed and air volume and necessary feeding space is secured
Mashiba; “Though “Eimei” was comparatively calm, the other 2 pandas seemed to be a bit nervous. Pandas are sensitive to not only noise but also change of scenery. Consequently, to both Nankai Express and ANA Cargo, keeping the pandas under a quiet environment, as well as to make a wall with containers in the warehouse to shut out the handling noises and people’s eyes were requested. We were also very grateful that we could concentrate on caring for the pandas.”
Scene of the pandas being build-up on containers. In the extremely spacious warehouse, in order to reduce the panda’s stress, and to enhance the convenience of the staff’s handling, a partition was made by piling up the containers. Paying attention to the surrounding environment, the stress of pandas was reduced, while various arrangements were made for the smooth handling of the staff engaged with the transport. The last baton was handed over to ANA Cargo and the final escort to Chengdu started.
From management of movement flow to temperature control… What countermeasures was taken by ANA Cargo to minimize the pandas’ stress?
The baton passed from Adventure World and Nankai Express is to be finally taken by ANA Cargo. To safely load and deliver the pandas, arriving at the Kansai International Airport, on the aircraft to Chengdu Airport is the mission of ANA Cargo.
The transfer from Adventure World, and transport to Kansai International Airport, or unloading at the cargo warehouse, was smoothly carried out based on close cooperation among the 3 parties. When loading the pandas on the containers, the workflow or the procedures in the warehouse was carefully considered, focusing on the time management to shorten the time for the build-up.
Imaki; “In order to reduce the burden or stress of the pandas, the efficient handling from the arrival at the warehouse to the container build-up was repeatedly examined. The order of the 3 pandas was also considered, and “Eimei” was firstly weighed on a container, while securing standby space in advance. Likewise, for both “Ouhin” and “Touhin”, a flow line was secured while cooperating on the handling processes with the other parties. Jet heater to blow out hot air was prepared by Adventure World to prevent “Eimei” from feeling cold during the waiting time.
Useless idle handling may weaken the physical strength of the pandas. For this reason, the flow line from transfer to placement, and loading was well planned. ”Eimei” was sleeping well”, says Imaki. The entire handling was smoothly processed without any trouble.
And the transfer of the containers with the pandas from the warehouse to the aircraft started. Though normally the parking spot of the aircraft is assigned by the Airport company, in order to secure seamless loading, the nearest spot was requested to minimize any unpredictable incidents when considering this as a special case. To safely transport the pandas to Chengdu, detailed procedures were also carefully studied and conducted.
After transferring the pandas near to the charter flight, next is to start loading them into the cargo compartment. When transporting pandas sensitive to temperature change, it was required to pay close attention for the loading into the cargo compartment and also its temperature-control.
The cargo compartment’s temperature range of the Boeing aircraft used this time is 4℃ ~ 10℃. Despite the giant pandas being resistant to cold due to originally inhabiting cold regions, for the healthcare of “Eimei”, the conditions to “maintain the temperature of the cargo compartment at minimum 10℃”, and also to “keep the oxygen concentration at stable level” were requested by Adventure World. So, how did ANA Cargo respond to this request?
Watabe; “Asking ourselves, ”How can we fulfill Adventure World’s request?”, so in advance, based on the same aircraft to be actually used, our team equipped a thermometer and repeatedly monitored the temperature transition during the flight operation. The cargo compartment automatically blows out warm air in case its temperature becomes 4℃ or below but to consistently maintain the temperature above 10℃ was unprecedented. As a result of the repeated tests, we could relieve Adventure World by informing that 10℃ during the flight could be stably maintained. In regard to the oxygen concentration also, by always monitoring with a logger and keeping the appropriate concentration range, we could focus on safe transport.”
Additionally, it was important to decide where to place the pandas in the cargo compartment. For instance, such as the temperature near the cargo door tends to be low, and depending on the position, temperature change cannot be avoided.
Watabe; “At the very back of the cargo compartment, there is a place called “bulk” where the checked baggage or pets are loaded. Since it is available to keep this bulk space warm by setting its temperature at the range of 18℃ ~ 23℃, after various inspections, the position to load “Eimei” was decided to be right next to the bulk. By flowing out the warm air from the bulk, a comfortable room temperature was maintained.”
By ANA Cargo’s thorough research and verification, uncertainty factors were removed.
Aircraft took off with the 3 parties’ strong wishes, “please just safely arrive at the destination”.
One by one, each panda is loaded into the cargo compartment of the aircraft. The wishes of the 3 parties, Adventure World, Nankai Express, and ANA Cargo, are exactly the same. “Please just safely arrive at Chengdu” -- as if praying to god. And finally “Eimei” was loaded.
With a serious look, everyone was watching the pandas to be loaded. It was a mixed expression of anxiety for the pandas’ health condition, sadness to be separated, and sense of accomplishment to safely load them on the aircraft for the transport.
And the aircraft with 3 pandas, “Eimei” “Ouhin” “Touhin”, departed Kansai
International Airport bound
Chengdu. Staff of both Adventure World and ANA Cargo accompanied to safely
transport and hand over
the pandas to
Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding.
People seeing off the pandas were waving flags until the aircraft went out
Nobody was sure whether it was a feeling of relief or sadness, but there were people in tears. The members of the 3 parties talked to each other and mutually praised the achievement.
The aircraft departed Japan after 7 p.m., and was scheduled to arrive at the
Chengdu Base before
February 23rd. During the 5 hours’ flight to Chengdu, Mr. Mashiba (Adventure
World) and Watabe (ANA
talking to each other.
Watabe; “I boarded the plane with strong will telling myself, “we shall definitely return the pandas safely”. During the flight, we, Mr. Mashiba and myself, were both very anxious particularly about “Eimei” so through the whole journey, we encouraged each other.”
The aircraft safely landed in Chengdu. Not being able to immediately deplane due to quarantine inspection we were all very much worried about the pandas. Says Watabe, “I was deeply touched to see everyone’s happy faces when I showed the photo of “Eimei” taken from the aircraft window.”
“Knock, and it shall be opened unto you” Not limited to only panda, new value shall be provided for the animal transports
This time’s panda transport, jointly handled by the 3 parties, Adventure World, Nankai Express, and ANA Cargo, was completed with great success. Looking back at the day of the transport, impressions of the concerned members were interviewed.
Mashiba; “The staff of Chengdu Base expressed their sincere appreciation for raising the 3 pandas to be healthy until now and safely delivered to them. I was truly moved. I really felt happy for all those customers or fans who loved “Eimei” and the other pandas to be relieved seeing the transport ended in success. It solely owes to the cooperation of both ANA Cargo and Nankai Express, and surely their cooperation is required if there is a similar case in the future.”
Shioji; “There is nothing much to say but I was just relieved that the pandas safely arrived. I believe the result turned out to be satisfactory due to each handling, from transport to customs clearance, one by one was carefully processed. Though cooperating with the team members as well as coordinating with the other companies was not easy at all, it was an extremely fruitful experience for us.”
Watabe; “For ANA Cargo, though we could successfully accomplish the task, out
of the past missions,
panda transport was especially a difficult one.
We are fully committed to respond to the valued customer’s needs to the possible extent in the future. Utilizing the know-how of panda transport, we shall continuously and proactively consider providing new values, such as transportation of special animals or important pets, for the customers.”
Not only limited to the transports of animals including pandas, but also ANA Cargo and the ANA Group’s challenge shall continue to lead the transport to enhance normal living or the future to be better --.
Adventure World giant panda breeding staff
In charge of giant panda’s breeding management.
For this project, was in charge of schedule coordination with each of the other companies and the pandas’ health control.
Hobby; Baseball, fishing
Nankai Express Co., Ltd
In charge of the entire management of the Sales group.
For this project, was in charge of the management of the animal transport team.
Hobby; Driving, visiting hot spring spots
Nankai Express Co., Ltd.
In charge of arranging special cargo transport for animals, human
For this project, was in charge of the trade administration of panda transport.
Hobby; Visiting zoos
Nankai Express Co., Ltd.
In charge of export & import of special cargo such as
For this project, was in charge of arrangement of vehicles for panda transport, and preparation of shipping documents.
Nankai Express Co., Ltd.
In charge of arrangements of transport for general and special
For this project, was in charge of various support, such as leading the truck transferring the pandas and on-site handling, as well as document delivery.
Hobby; Eating various kinds of cuisine
Products & Services, Global Marketing, ANA Cargo Inc.
Joined ANA Cargo Inc. in 2022.
In charge of industry marketing.
For this project, was in charge of the entire supervision as the leader.
Hobby; Sauna, mountain-walking
ANA Cargo Inc.
Joined ANA Caro Inc. in 1991.
Was in charge of quality management of international cargo & operation coordinator at the timing of this project.
For this project, was in charge of transport process management at Kansai Airport.
Effective April, 2023, transferred to Haneda Domestic Warehouse Operation Center Cargo Services
Hobby; Playing tennis with the family