China will send two giant pandas to the Washington, DC zoo | News

Bao Li and Qing Bao will arrive this year under a decade-long breeding and research agreement, the zoo says.

China will send giant pandas to the National Zoo in Washington, DC, US first lady Jill Biden and officials said in a surprise announcement that signals a new era of panda diplomacy between the superpowers.

Bao Li and Qing Bao will arrive in the United States before the end of the year under a decade-long breeding and research agreement, the zoo said in a statement Wednesday celebrating the return of the animals “beloved nationwide and the world”.

“We are excited for children near and far to once again enjoy the adorable and joyful adventures of giant pandas at our @NationalZoo,” the first lady posted on X.

With tensions rising between Washington and Beijing, only a handful of black and white bears remain in the United States, and three left the National Zoo six months ago.

But Chinese President Xi Jinping said after meeting U.S. President Joe Biden at a summit in California in November that China could send new pandas as “envoys of friendship between the Chinese and American people.”

Two-year-old male giant panda Bao Li in his habitat at Shenshuping Base in Wolong, China (Smithsonian National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute via AP Photo)

The White House said it would be happy to have more bamboo-chewing bears.

“We are thrilled to announce that the next chapter of our breeding and conservation partnership begins with welcoming two new bears to Washington, D.C., including a descendant of our beloved panda family,” said Brandie Smith of the National Zoo and Wildlife Institute. Smithsonian Conservation Biology. .

“This historic moment is proof positive that our collaboration with Chinese colleagues has had an irrefutable impact.”

China has been using “panda diplomacy” since 1972, when the first animals were sent to the United States as a gift after then-President Richard Nixon’s visit to the communist nation.

Tense relations between the rival superpowers in recent years have prompted Beijing to call some of the pandas home.

The National Zoo’s three giant pandas (Mei Xiang and Tian Tian, ​​​​who arrived in 2000, and their three-year-old cub, Xiao Qi Ji (“Little Miracle” in English)) returned on a cargo plane to China in November .

The last remaining pandas in the United States, in a zoo in the southern city of Atlanta, will return to China this year, although the Asian giant announced plans in February to send a pair to the San Diego Zoo.

The Washington, D.C., newcomers, both two years old, were born a month apart from each other at a conservation center in the southwestern province of Sichuan. Both still live in the province in separate facilities.

Bao Li, a man whose name means “treasure” and “energetic,” is something of a descendant of a historic Washington, DC family.

His mother, Bao Bao, was born at the US capital’s zoo in 2013 while his grandparents lived there from 2000 to 2023, where they served as ambassadors for their species.

The female name Qing Bao means “green” and “treasure.”

The pandas will be quarantined in their new habitat for at least 30 days, monitored by a team of keepers, nutritionists and veterinarians.

They will have a few more weeks to settle into their new home before their public debut at a date yet to be announced, the zoo said.

“After welcoming nearly 26 million visitors last year, up 16 percent from the previous year, we are eager to welcome two more,” Mayor Muriel Bowser posted on X.

“Bao Li and Qing Bao – we hope to see you soon!”

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