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Giant Pandas to return to the San Diego Zoo

This+is+Gao+Gao+at+the+San+Diego+Zoo+in+2009.+He+lived+there+until+2018+and+will+be+returning+with+a+female+companion%2C+Bai+Yun%2C+at+the+end+of+the+year.
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This is Gao Gao at the San Diego Zoo in 2009. He lived there until 2018 and will be returning with a female companion, Bai Yun, at the end of the year.

After a withdrawal of giant pandas across America, the San Diego Zoo is working towards their return. In February, the San Diego Zoo announced that the giant pandas exhibit would return.

The San Diego Zoo publically stated they are working with the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora or Fauna (CITES). CITES is an international agreement between governments that regulates animal trading. The San Diego Zoo has applied for a CITES conservation permit to care for Giant Pandas.  Many are excited to visit the only giant panda exhibit in the Western United States.

Giant Pandas have always been a symbol of diplomacy between the United States and China. The tradition started as far back as the Tang Dynasty from 618 CE to 907 CE. However, the People’s Republic of China changed its policy in 1984. Instead of gifts from the PRC, giant pandas were now being loaned for ten years at the cost of $500,000 to $1,000,000 per year. Despite this change, the loans have continued to be an example of international diplomacy between China and other nations.

In response, the World Wide Fund for Nature sued the PRC in 1988 for their panda loans. Afterward, the US Fish and Wildlife Service created a policy that half of the PRC’s giant panda loan would be used for conservation efforts. The United States, Mexico, and Taiwan are some countries with giant pandas loaned today. 

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The loans represent either a sign of diplomacy or strong trade relations. The panda loans have been for research purposes, conservation efforts, or to exhibit in zoos. The PRC reserved the right for all giant pandas and their cubs to be citizens of the PRC. The PRC does require any cub above the age of four to be returned to China.

The San Diego Zoo was able to maintain a panda loan for over twenty years. The loan for Bai Yun and her son Xiao Liwu ended in 2019, marking the end of an era for the wildlife reserve.

Additionally, six Giant Panda cubs were born at the zoo but were returned to China to help increase the panda population. The current panda population is vulnerable, but they were once endangered before 2021.

Today, the Atlanta Zoo is the only zoo in the U.S. to offer a panda exhibit. The last former zoo to have a giant panda exhibit was in Washington D.C. at the Smithsonian National Zoo. They were recently returned to China on November 8th.

The San Diego Zoo is working towards bringing back giant pandas, but only time will tell. Many Americans hope to see the beloved black and white panda back in the Zoo by the end of the year.

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Fernando Torres Catalan, Word on the Street Host, Staff Writer

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