DC Zoo to Get New Pair of Giant Pandas from China

A pair of giant pandas from China will soon be housed at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo in Washington, DC, the zoo announced.

Two-year-old male panda Bao Li and two-year-old female panda Qing Bao will arrive in the US capital later this year.

News of his upcoming arrival was announced Wednesday with a video featuring first lady Jill Biden, who called it a “historic moment.”

The move marks the latest chapter in China’s long history of panda diplomacy with the United States, and comes despite strained relations between the two countries.

It also comes six months after a family of three pandas were returned to China from the National Zoo.

In its announcement, the zoo said one of the incoming bears, Bao Li, is a descendant of that family.

“This historic moment is proof positive that our collaboration with Chinese colleagues has had an irrefutable impact,” said zoo director Brandie Smith.

The arrival of the bears is the result of a new agreement signed with the Chinese Wildlife Conservation Association (CWSA), the zoo said.

This involves the transfer of two giant pandas recommended for reproduction so that they remain under the care of the National Zoo for a decade.

Meanwhile, the National Zoo will pay an annual fee of $1 million (£790,000) to the CWSA to support its research and conservation efforts.

Both the pandas and their cubs will remain under the ownership of China, and any cubs born will be transferred back to China when they turn four years old.

The National Zoo said it will make another announcement once the pandas are ready for public viewing.

Its arrival in the city is scheduled for the end of this year.

The pandas have been housed at the Washington DC Zoo for more than five decades and are a draw for millions of visitors, as well as fans around the world who watch the bears online on the zoo’s panda cam.

The animals have long symbolized warm relations with China, which first gifted a pair of giant pandas to the United States after Richard Nixon’s historic trip to Beijing in 1972.

In 2023, China removed four pandas from the United States – including three that were housed at the National Zoo – and another two from Edinburgh Zoo, as relations between Beijing and the West became increasingly difficult.

In addition to the pair sent to the National Zoo, the San Diego Zoo announced earlier this year that it will also receive a pair of pandas.

Experts have said China’s renewed panda diplomacy could be a sign that Beijing is wielding “soft power” as the two countries work to rebuild their relationship despite differences on economic and political issues.

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