Two new giant pandas arrive at the National Zoo in DC

WASHINGTON (AP) — Six months after the nation’s capital bid an emotional farewell to its giant pandas, the National Zoo is expecting a new wave of panda mania with the announcement that two more black-and-white furry icons will be coming to Washington.

The zoo announced Wednesday that a new agreement had been reached with the Chinese government and that a pair of adult pandas would arrive from China by the end of the year. The National Zoo and the Smithsonian Institute for Conservation Biology said the new pairs were Bao Li (pronounced BOW’-lee) and Qing Bao (ching-BOW’).

“We are thrilled to announce the next chapter of our breeding and conservation partnership by welcoming two new bears, including a descendant of our beloved panda family, to Washington, DC,” said Brandie Smith, Director of the zoo. “This historic moment is positive proof that our collaboration with our Chinese colleagues has had an irrefutable impact. »

Giant pandas are prized in Washington, across the country and around the world. Number of pandas in US zoos has declined as loan agreements expire diplomatic tensions between the United States and China which remains high on economic relations, technology, trade, Taiwan and even a spy balloon. The three pandas of Washington returned to China last November.

For more than five decades, the institute has created and maintained one of the world’s largest giant panda conservation programs, helping to move the panda from endangered to vulnerable on the global list of species threatened with extinction.

Chinese President Xi Jinping signaled during a trip in late 2023 that China would send new pandas to the United States. He called them “envoys of friendship between the Chinese and American people.”

The zoo accompanied the announcement of A light video With Smith, Smithsonian Institution Secretary Lonnie G. Bunch III and First Lady Jill Biden. The trio in the video are gathered to discuss the protocol of a reception intended to welcome anonymous guests of honor. When Biden asks about attire and the menu, Smith responds dryly that the impending guests are “strict vegetarians” who have “a weakness for black and white.”

Last November, giant pandas Tian Tian and Mei Xiang and their cub, Xiao Qi Ji, I returned to China, sparking a nationwide wave of farewells from millions of American panda fans of all ages. The trio’s departure left only one family of pandas in U.S. zoos, at Zoo Atlanta, and these are expected to return to China later this year.

Zoo Atlanta is preparing for the return of panda parents Lun Lun and Yang Yang, as well as their U.S.-born twins, Ya Lun and Xi Lun, zoo officials announced earlier this month.

America may welcome another new pair of pandas before the bears leave Atlanta. The San Diego Zoo said last month that staff members recently traveled to China to meet pandas Yun Chuan and Xin Bao, who could arrive in California as soon as this summer. A separate agreement It was also announced that a breeding pair of pandas would be sent to San Francisco.

Pandas have been a symbol of friendship between the United States and China since Beijing sent a pair to the national zoo in 1972, before bilateral relations normalized. Beijing later loaned pandas to other U.S. zoos, with the profits going to panda conservation programs.

When relations between the United States and China began to deteriorate in recent years, Chinese citizens began demanding the return of giant pandas. Unproven allegations that U.S. zoos mistreated pandas, known as China’s “national treasure,” have flooded Chinese social media.

The National Zoo said the pandas coming to Washington are:

— Bao Li, a 2-year-old male whose name means “treasure” and “energetic”. He was born in August. On December 4, 2021, at the China Sichuan Giant Panda Conservation and Research Center, in honor of father An An and mother Bao Bao. The zoo said Bao Li’s mother was born at the zoo in 2013 and her grandparents Tian Tian and Mei Xiang lived at the zoo from 2000 to 2023. They were Mei Xiang and Tian Tian, ​​​​​​​​with their little Xiao Qi Ji, who left the zoo in November.

— Qing Bao, a 2-year-old female whose name means “green” and “treasure”. She was born in September. 12, 2021.

A research and breeding agreement with the Chinese runs until April 2034 and, like previous ones, stipulates that all cubs born at the zoo will emigrate to China at the age of 4, according to the announcement. The zoo will pay an annual membership fee of $1 million to the China Wildlife Conservation Association to support research and conservation efforts in China.

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