Could America Panda
On Wednesday, Chinese President Xi Jinping announced that the Chinese government is willing to continue lending pandas to American zoos, providing a glimmer of hope for panda enthusiasts in America.
The pandas’ arrival was still being determined in terms of time and location. However, there was a hint from Xi that Californians, especially those in San Diego, might have cause for celebration.
Please find below the latest update on the current status:
The current status of pandas in the United States is a matter of concern.
The population of giant pandas in American zoos has been consistently decreasing due to the expiration and non-renewal of multiple exchange agreements. In 2019, the San Diego Zoo returned its , and earlier this year, the last bear at the Memphis, Tennessee, zoo also returned to its homeland.
Washington’s National Zoo recently sent its three — Mei Xiang, Tian Tian, and their cub, Xiao Qi Ji — back to China.
The Atlanta Zoo currently houses the only pandas in America, with the loan agreement set to expire next year. Speculation among China watchers suggests that the People’s Republic may gradually withdraw its bears from American and European zoos due to tensions with Western governments.
Xi on panda diplomacy
During a dinner with business leaders at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in San Francisco, Xi emphasized the bears as “envoys of friendship between the Chinese and American peoples.
The speaker expressed their willingness to extend their collaboration with the United States on panda conservation, aiming to fulfill the desires of the people of California and further strengthen the amicable bonds between the two nations.
The speaker also hinted that the next pair of might be destined for San Diego.
It was mentioned that numerous American individuals, particularly children, hesitated to bid farewell to the pandas and visited the zoo to witness their departure.
Panda watchers encouraged
Observers and experts interpreted the statement as indicating that the panda exchange program would be renewed, although it lacked specific details. Daniel Ashe, CEO of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, expressed optimism and eagerness to witness the forthcoming actions.
Dennis Wilder, a senior fellow at Georgetown University’s Initiative for U.S.-China Dialogue on Global Issues, described it as a “victory” and indicated that Xi’s statement has effectively reopened negotiations with various American zoos.
Wilder stated that he is essentially giving permission to the conservation society to proceed with negotiations. If I were at the National Zoo, I would likely reach out to my counterpart and inquire, ‘Are we able to progress now?'”
San Diego Zoo as front-runner
Wilder suggested Xi’s mention of California could be attributed to his address to a California audience. It could also be linked to California Governor Gavin Newsom’s recent visit to China. Regardless of the reason, officials from the San Diego Zoo remained optimistic.
Paul A. Baribault, the President and CEO of the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance, remarked on the commitment of President Xi to the continued conservation of giant pandas between our nations.
He also acknowledged the desire of Californians and the San Diego Zoo to witness the return of giant pandas. Baribault emphasized the importance of people in conservation efforts and expressed the zoo’s dedication to collaborating with partners in welcoming the next generation of giant pandas. Their shared goal is to continue wildlife conservation and inspire millions worldwide to protect our planet.
What about the National Zoo?
The Smithsonian’s National Zoo became the inaugural institution in the United States to acquire giant pandas. Ling-Ling and Hsing-Hsing, the initial pair, made their arrival in 1972. On November 8, the most recent team and their cub were repatriated to China.
National Zoo Director Brandie Smith expressed mixed emotions, stating,
“This is a moment tinged with sadness, yet it is also a moment of jubilation as we commemorate the accomplishments of the world’s lengthiest continuous conservation initiative for a single species.”
The National Zoo officials have remained silent on the progress of negotiations regarding the return of pandas to Washington. No response was given when seeking comment on Xi’s statement.
Wilder anticipates that the National Zoo will be selected due to its recognition and significance in the capital city, along with decades of expertise in caring for pandas.
The Chinese reaction
Chinese public sentiment overwhelmingly supports the repatriation of all American bears. The sudden death of Le Le, a male panda loaned to the Memphis zoo, sparked a vigorous online campaign in China accusing the Americans of bear mistreatment.
Chinese state media, which played a significant role in fostering the anti-American sentiment, possesses the ability to shift their narrative, according to Wilder, swiftly. He emphasized their talent for reshaping a story. He mentioned how they could use their internal media to convey a message like, “Our compassionate leader is offering the Americans another opportunity.
The political hurdles have been cleared, and with approval from high-ranking officials, progress can be rapid. According to Wilder, if it comes from the supreme leader in China, it has a significant impact. It will move swiftly now.”
The timing for the bear relocation can depend on the recipient zoo’s preparedness to accommodate and care for the bears. For instance, without pandas for four years, the San Diego Zoo may require facility upgrades or refurbishments. Similarly, the National Zoo has intended to renovate its panda house and outdoor enclosure, but there is still being determined regarding the timeline for these plans.