By Karen Kucher, The San Diego Union-Tribune
Keep tuned. The San Diego Zoo’s Panda Cam may be coming again for a brand new season.
Big pandas — the vastly standard beloved symbols of China which haven’t been right here since 2019 — might be headed again to San Diego. That bit of stories got here in a speech by Chinese language President Xi Jinping on Wednesday evening after he met with President Joe Biden in San Francisco, and the leaders pledged to scale back tensions.
Xi signaled that pandas — which he referred to as “envoys of friendship between the Chinese language and American peoples” — might be despatched to a zoo in California. He didn’t share any particulars on when such a switch may happen.
“We’re able to proceed our cooperation with america on panda conservation, and do our greatest to satisfy the needs of the Californians in order to deepen the pleasant ties between our two peoples,” Xi stated throughout a dinner speech with enterprise leaders. He stated he realized the San Diego Zoo and folks in California “very a lot sit up for welcoming pandas again.”
The announcement by China’s chief was a welcomed shock to zoo officers.
“We’re excited to listen to of President Xi’s dedication in persevering with the large panda conservation efforts between our two nations, and his consideration to the want of Californians and the San Diego Zoo to see the return of large pandas,” Paul Baribault, president and CEO of San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance, stated in a press release.
“Conservation begins with individuals, and our staff is dedicated to working with our companions to welcome the following era of large pandas to our zoo, persevering with our joint efforts in wildlife conservation, and provoking hundreds of thousands worldwide to guard the planet all of us share.”
The event got here simply days after the Smithsonian’s Nationwide Zoo’s three large pandas — Mei Xiang, Tian Tian and their cub Xiao Qi Ji — left Washington for China. With their departure, solely 4 pandas are left within the U.S., all on the Atlanta Zoo. That mortgage is ready to run out in late 2024, which might ship these pandas again to China, too, the zoo has stated.
San Diego Zoo officers had little to share concerning the growth. There’s no settlement, no timeline — it’s a lot too early for any of that. “We’ll proceed to have interaction with our Chinese language companions,” a spokesperson stated.
If large pandas return, zoo officers might must shuffle some animals round to accommodate them. Their habitat is now residence to a number of pink pandas.
San Diego has an extended historical past with pandas — and if historical past is a information, a return of the roly poly black-and-white animals would show to be highly regarded.
This may be the third time China has loaned large pandas to the San Diego Zoo — first in 1987 for a six-month interval when Basi and Yuan Yuan have been despatched. A report 3.8 million individuals visited the zoo that yr.
Then in 1996, two extra pandas, Bai Yun and Shi Shi, got here as a part of a breeding mortgage beneath a panda analysis program. Bai Yun and Shi Shi produced a cub, Hua Mei, who grew to become a worldwide superstar as hundreds of thousands tuned into the zoo’s “panda cam” to observe her develop. She was the primary American-born panda to outlive into maturity and was relocated to the Wolong Big Panda Analysis Middle in China in 2004. Shi Shi was changed by Gao Gao in 2003, and he fathered 5 extra cubs in San Diego.
San Diego’s obsession with pandas was sufficient to warrant a narrative line within the 2004 movie “Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy,” starring Will Ferrell. For days, the fictional San Diego tv newscast was on “Panda Watch,” breathlessly awaiting the start of a panda on the zoo.
Different U.S. zoos even have had pandas. The Nationwide Zoo obtained its first pandas from the Chinese language in 1972 — Ling-Ling and Hsing-Hsing — after President Richard Nixon’s historic go to to China. Ling Ling had 5 cubs however none survived. In 2000, the Nationwide Zoo obtained two extra pandas, Mei Xiang and Tian Tian, beneath a 10-year cooperative analysis and breeding settlement which was subsequently renewed thrice. Mei Xiang gave start to seven cubs, 4 that survived.
Nationwide Zoo officers plan to proceed their analysis and conservation work in China and hope to have large pandas on the zoo sooner or later, a spokesperson stated.
Big pandas have been on the endangered species listing for greater than 25 years, however in 2017, the Worldwide Union for Conservation of Nature downgraded their standing from “endangered” to “susceptible” on its international listing of species liable to extinction after the variety of pandas within the wild elevated after years of decline. There are an estimated 1,800 within the wild, in line with the Nationwide Zoo.
Dan Ashe, the president and CEO of the nonprofit Affiliation of Zoos and Aquariums, stated this week’s growth was excellent news on many fronts— not just for zoo guests who take pleasure in seeing pandas, however for relations between the 2 nations. China’s observe of giving or loaning pandas to different nations has come to be often known as “panda diplomacy.”
“Pandas in U.S. zoos replicate a optimistic, wholesome relationship between our two nations,” he stated. “And the work that has been carried out on conservation has been superb — 5 a long time of cooperation and in contrast to many species, pandas are doing higher because of it. It’s good all the way in which round.”
So San Diego is once more on Panda Watch? Anyone name Ron Burgundy.
The Related Press contributed to this report.
Karen Kucher is a workers author and editor at The San Diego Union-Tribune. She has lined all the things from county authorities and better training to animal points and wildfires. Nowadays she focuses on breaking information and public questions of safety. Karen is a local San Diegan and graduate of the College of Southern California.