Giant Pandas are Coming to the US

A pair of pandas are coming to the San Diego Zoo.

Mar 17, 2024


Giant Pandas are Coming to the US | A pair of pandas are coming to the San Diego Zoo.

What’s black and white and absolutely adorable? The answer can only be a pair of pandas. For the first time in over two decades, China is loaning two giant pandas — one male and one female – to the San Diego Zoo in California.

Since fewer than 2,000 giant pandas remain in the wild, the World Wildlife Fund lists the species as vulnerable, reported CNN. That’s why these loan programs are so important.

While there is no official timeline yet for the arrival of the pair, a spokesperson from the Zoo told CNN that they are “optimistic we will get pandas in the not-so-distant future.”

Panda diplomacy
The panda diplomacy between Beijing and Washington began in 1972. Several US zoos received pandas during this time of good relations between the two countries including The Smithsonian National Zoo in Washington DC and the San Diego Zoo.

China has loaned giant pandas to more than 20 countries across Europe and in 2022 a pair was sent  to Qatar, the first to any Middle Eastern country.

Chinese leader Xi has publicly acknowledged that the loans of the cuddly black and white animals have been used to suit its diplomatic and political needs in countries where the country hopes to gain closer relations.

Sadly, the number of panda loans dwindled as the relations between US and China worsened. Now only four giant pandas remain in the US at the Atlanta Zoo, reported AP News. China did not renew the loan agreements at the other three zoos. The last pandas at the Sandiego Zoo were sent back in 2019.

Looking forward to a brighter future
But things are looking up. In November, 2023, Chinese President Xi Jinping spoke to US president Joe Biden in a face-to-face meeting in California where the countries pledged to reduce tensions. One of these ways was the renewal of what Xi called the “envoys of friendship” beginning with the San Diego Zoo.

The China Wildlife Association signed agreements to send the pair to the California Zoo, and to the zoo in Madrid, Spain. The association is also in talks with the zoos in Vienna, Austria and Washington DC quelling fears that China would no longer send pandas to Western countries.

“We look forward to further expanding the research outcomes on the conservation of endangered species such as giant pandas, and promoting mutual understanding and friendship among peoples through the new round of international cooperation,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said in a Beijing news conference.

This partnership will include research on how to prevent diseases, habitat protection, and will contribute to the construction of China’s national panda park.

Cindy Rose has been coming to the San Diego Zoo for 40 years and has always loved visiting the pandas. She and her husband Randy were visiting the zoo and heard the news about the new panda loan. He told AP: “It makes me feel good that this is one way to reduce tensions. We have a lot of differences but we all love pandas. They’re fun to watch, munching on bamboo and climbing trees.”

If all the permits are secured and all the requirements are met, the pandas could arrive by the end of the summer of 2024. And hopefully that will be just the first of many more pandas coming to the US.

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Bonnie has dedicated her life to promoting social justice. She loves to write about empowering women, helping children, educational innovations, and advocating for the environment & sustainability.