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Sun. Apr 21st, 2024

China has announced plans to dispatch pandas to a zoo in San Diego, marking a significant move after the majority of these iconic creatures, on loan to the United States, were repatriated amid diplomatic tensions.

Mao Ning, spokesperson for the Chinese foreign ministry, disclosed in a routine press briefing on Thursday that Chinese institutions have formalized agreements with the San Diego Zoo in the U.S., focusing on a fresh wave of collaboration in giant panda conservation efforts.

According to Mao, similar deals have been inked with a zoo in Madrid, while discussions are underway with zoos in Washington and Vienna. China’s utilization of pandas as diplomatic emissaries, known as “panda diplomacy,” has been a longstanding practice, often utilized to advance foreign policy objectives.

The strained relations between Washington and Beijing have resulted in only a few pandas remaining in the United States, with three departing the National Zoo in Washington in November. The last remaining pandas in the U.S., currently residing in an Atlanta zoo, are slated to return to China by late 2024. However, following a meeting with U.S. President Joe Biden last year, Chinese leader Xi Jinping expressed willingness to send new pandas as symbols of goodwill between the Chinese and American people.

In response, the White House expressed eagerness to welcome more of these beloved bamboo-munching creatures. Mao emphasized the significance of giant pandas as a cherished national treasure of China, revered by people worldwide. She articulated China’s anticipation for renewed international collaboration in the preservation of giant pandas with relevant countries.

According to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), there are an estimated 1,860 giant pandas remaining in the wild, with approximately 600 in captivity across panda centers, zoos, and wildlife parks globally. The forthcoming collaboration underscores a concerted effort to safeguard these endangered species and foster mutual understanding between nations through conservation initiatives.

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