China Will Dispatch A Fresh Pair Of Pandas To The United States

( — The San Diego Zoo is very excited that they may be receiving a pair of giant pandas from China as early as this summer. China has a long history of sending giant pandas to countries they wish to have good diplomatic relations with, sometimes referred to as “panda diplomacy.” While in earlier years, the live bears were gifted to their host nations, they are generally leased now at a cost of approximately $1 million annually. They also cost over $88,000 per year to feed and care for.

The San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance (SDZWA), which operates the San Diego Zoo, recently signed a “cooperative agreement” with the China Wildlife Conservation Association. When visiting San Francisco in November, Chinese President Xi Jinping mentioned how he had heard that Californians had been saddened to say goodbye to the panda Bai Yun and her son when they returned to China in 2019, and that he understood that the San Diego Zoo would be happy to welcome giant pandas back.

Giant pandas generally live about 15 years in the wild but have lived up to 38 years in captivity. They are notoriously difficult to breed and were considered endangered for many years. However, thanks in part to captive breeding programs, their numbers have become robust enough to move from endangered to vulnerable status. Giant pandas kept in zoos around the world are returned to China when they are elderly, and any cubs they have are sent to live in China at around 3 or 4 years old.

While panda conservationists at the San Diego Zoo are full of delighted anticipation, the move is not entirely popular in China. Many Chinese people have been campaigning to stop the “panda diplomacy” in part due to the death of Le Le, a male Giant Panda at the Memphis Zoo, which some Chinese people believed to have been the zoo’s fault, causing them to demand the return of Le Le’s mate Ya Ya. However, the China Wildlife Conservation Association is also in talks with zoos in Spain, Austria, and Washington, D.C., for guest pandas as well.

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