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InternationalChina is bringing home all the panda - friendship ambassadors from the...

China is bringing home all the panda – friendship ambassadors from the US

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All the world’s pandas belong to China, but Beijing has been leasing animals to foreign countries since 1984.

Three giant pandas from the Washington Zoo will return to China as scheduled last December, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Mao Ning told.

She was asked if the move was a reflection of the deteriorating relationship between the US and China under so-called panda diplomacy.

“Giant pandas are not only China’s national treasure, but they are also welcomed and loved by people all over the world, and can be said to be ambassadors and bridges of friendship.” <…> We are ready to continue working with partners, including the United States, to strengthen cooperation in the field of endangered species protection,” Mao Ning said.

Zoos in Atlanta, San Diego and Memphis have either already transferred their pandas back or will do so by the end of next year, according to Bloomberg. That way, all the pandas will leave the US.

In April, Beijing took Ya Ya the panda from the Memphis Zoo, which was sent to the United States as a friendship ambassador in 2003.

The zoo announced in December 2022 that it would return Ya Ya to China, ending 20 years of collaborative research.

In February, experts in China discovered that she had a skin disease that caused hair loss, but the panda’s general health was normal.

All the world’s pandas belong to China, but Beijing has been leasing animals to foreign countries since 1984.

This tool of public diplomacy used by China to improve relations with foreign countries is called panda diplomacy.

Among the non-political reasons for the pandas’ return is that the pandas are reaching the age at which they must return to China: the departure of some animals had to be postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic, the agency noted.

In addition, in 2021, the Chinese authorities lowered the conservation status of pandas from “endangered” to “vulnerable”, as their population in the wild began to recover and reached 1.8 thousand individuals.

China is already creating its own network of national parks that may no longer require sending animals abroad for breeding and conservation, the article said.

A Bloomberg source familiar with US President Joe Biden’s administration’s findings on the matter said Washington plans to discuss the panda lease with Beijing before the animals from the Washington Zoo travel to China.

Liu Pengu, a spokesman for the Chinese embassy in Washington, said the two countries were “discussing future cooperation in the field of giant panda conservation and research.”

Asked about the prospects for further negotiations, a State Department spokesman told the agency that the panda agreement was not between governments, but between the National Zoo and the China Wildlife Conservation Association.

He emphasized that the cooperation so far is a “gesture of goodwill on both sides”.

Pandas Mei Xiang and Tian Tian came to the Washington Zoo in 2000 as part of an agreement between the zoo and the China Wildlife Association.

The pair was supposed to stay for ten years for a research and breeding program, but the agreement with China was extended several times.

On August 21, 2020, the couple gave birth to a male cub named Xiao Qi Ji, and the same year the zoo announced that it had signed another three-year extension to keep all three pandas until the end of 2023.

Illustrative Photo by Diana Silaraja: https://www.pexels.com/photo/photo-of-panda-and-cub-playing-1661535/

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