China plans to send a pair of pandas to San Diego Zoo, with the possibility of sending additional pandas to D.C. zoo.

China plans to send a pair of pandas to San Diego Zoo, with the possibility of sending additional pandas to D.C. zoo.

China intends to transport a fresh set of large pandas to the San Diego Zoo, continuing its longstanding act of goodwill towards the United States. This comes after the country recalled almost all of the renowned bears that were on loan to American zoos due to deteriorating relations between the two countries.

The China Wildlife Conservation Association has recently formed partnerships with zoos in San Diego and Madrid, as well as initiating discussions with zoos in Washington, D.C. and Vienna. According to China’s government-controlled Xinhua News Agency, these agreements mark a new phase of cooperation for the conservation of pandas.

The San Diego Zoo has informed The Associated Press that once all necessary permits and approvals are granted, two bears (a male and a female) will be brought in by the end of summer. This will happen approximately five years after the zoo had returned its last pandas to China.

There was optimism that the nation would resume sending pandas to the U.S. following a meeting between President Joe Biden and Chinese leader Xi Jinping in Northern California. The two leaders, who met face-to-face for the first time in a year, vowed to work towards easing tensions.

According to Owen, a panda behavior specialist who has worked in both San Diego and China, China is contemplating a duo consisting of a female offspring of the zoo’s previous inhabitants, Bai Yun and Gao Gao.

Bai Yun, a captive-born panda from China, resided at the zoo for over two decades and successfully birthed six cubs during her time there. In 2019, she and her son, the last pandas at the zoo, were repatriated to China.

Gao Gao, who was originally born in the wild in China, resided at the San Diego Zoo from 2003 to 2018 before returning to his natural habitat.

Conservation efforts over the years, both in natural habitats and controlled environments, have successfully prevented the giant panda species from becoming extinct. This has led to a significant increase in their population, going from less than 1,000 to over 1,800 individuals in both the wild and captivity.

The friendship between the United States and China has been represented by black-and-white bears for many years. This began in 1972 when Beijing gave a pair of pandas to the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., before the two countries officially normalized their relationship. China has since lent pandas to various zoos to aid in breeding and increasing the population.

According to a report from Xinhua, the United States, Spain, and Austria were the initial nations to partner with China in efforts to conserve pandas. As a result of this collaboration, 28 pandas have been successfully born in these countries. The recent joint effort will focus on studying disease prevention and preserving habitats, ultimately aiding in the development of China’s national panda park.

Mao Ning, a spokesperson for the Chinese Foreign Ministry in Beijing, expressed anticipation for the advancement of research efforts regarding the preservation of at-risk creatures like giant pandas. He also emphasized the potential for fostering mutual understanding and friendship among nations through renewed international collaboration.

The Chinese people have been increasingly vocal about their desire for the return of giant pandas, a beloved symbol and “national treasure” of China. This demand has been fueled by unverified claims on Chinese social media that U.S. zoos have mistreated the pandas.

The pandas belonging to Washington, D.C. were returned to China.

There are currently only four of these animals left in the United States, all located at the zoo in Atlanta. The agreement for their loan will end later this year.

Several loan contracts were initially set for a decade but were frequently prolonged. However, attempts made last year to extend these agreements with American zoos or to send additional pandas were unsuccessful. Observers of China’s actions speculated that the country may be gradually removing its pandas from Western countries due to strained diplomatic ties with the United States and other nations.

On November 15, 2023, one week following the departure of the National Zoo’s pandas to China, Xi addressed a dinner in downtown San Francisco with American business leaders. During his speech, he hinted at the possibility of sending more pandas. He also mentioned that he was informed about the enthusiasm of the San Diego Zoo and residents of California in welcoming back the pandas.

Xi stated that numerous Americans, particularly children, were hesitant to bid farewell to the pandas and made trips to the zoo to see them depart.

Even after no longer having pandas, the San Diego Zoo maintained their partnership with Chinese colleagues.

According to Owen, China has shown great interest in sharing knowledge about the zoo’s successful efforts in breeding pandas in captivity. Giant pandas are challenging to breed due to the short reproductive window of the female, which lasts only 48 to 72 hours once a year.

Hua Mei, the first cub born to Bai Yun, was the initial panda to survive into adulthood outside of China through artificial insemination. After being sent back to China, she went on to give birth to 12 cubs.

While Bai Yun stayed at the zoo, she delivered two females and three males. Researchers were able to observe her through cameras in her den, which helped to advance our understanding of maternal care behavior, according to Owen.

She stated that we have a great amount of expertise and capability from our previous cooperative agreement that we can utilize for the next phase, while also educating and preparing the future group of individuals dedicated to panda conservation.

According to Owen, Chinese specialists would accompany the bears and stay in San Diego for several months.

She stated that the comeback of the bears is beneficial not just for San Diego, but also for the overall recovery of the giant panda population.

According to Owen, panda diplomacy is a topic that is frequently discussed. He believes that diplomacy plays a crucial role in conservation efforts in various situations. If conservationists are unable to collaborate effectively, especially in challenging or uncontrollable circumstances, their efforts will ultimately fail.