December 10, 2023

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.”

Chinese language President Xi Jinping speaks throughout a gathering with US President Joe Biden, not pictured, throughout the Asia-Pacific Financial Cooperation (APEC) Leaders’ week in Woodside, California on November 15, 2023. (Photograph by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP by way of Getty Pictures) 

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.