Early Return of Washington DC Pandas to China Scheduled for Mid-November

by Chloe Baker
National Zoo pandas return

Washington DC’s National Zoo has announced that its famed trio of giant pandas will be repatriated to China ahead of schedule, with a return planned for mid-November. The adult pandas, Mei Xiang and Tian Tian, along with their cub Xiao Qi Ji, were initially expected to remain until December 7th, when the zoo’s current exchange agreement with the Chinese government comes to an end.

The original agreement, established 50 years ago under the administration of President Richard Nixon, is currently under negotiation for extension. However, these talks have yet to yield a new contract. Observers focusing on Chinese foreign policy speculate that the accelerated return may be part of Beijing’s broader strategy to recall pandas from Western nations, possibly as a reflection of strained diplomatic ties with the United States and other countries.

Enthusiasts of giant pandas had earmarked December as their final opportunity to see these beloved animals. Nonetheless, the National Zoo has revealed that the pandas will leave approximately three weeks prior to the previously announced date for reasons that have not been disclosed.

Annalisa Meyer, a spokesperson for the National Zoo, communicated via email that discussions for a renewed giant panda program with their Chinese counterparts, the China Wildlife Conservation Association, would commence once the current pandas are back in China. “We are steadfast in our commitment to the conservation of giant pandas,” Meyer stated. “It is our aim to again host these magnificent creatures at the zoo and to continue our associated research and conservation efforts in China.”

For years, the pandas have enjoyed immense popularity and have even come to symbolize the nation’s capital. Each of their birthdays and anniversaries have been public events, and the unexpected birth of Xiao Qi Ji during the 2020 pandemic was a significant draw, attracting millions to the zoo’s panda-cam.

Despite the imminent departure of its pandas, the National Zoo remains optimistic about striking a new agreement with the Chinese authorities. It should be noted that other U.S. zoos have already returned their pandas; San Diego did so in 2019, and Memphis followed suit earlier this year. If the National Zoo’s pandas do leave, the Atlanta Zoo will house the last remaining giant pandas in the United States, although their loan agreement is also slated to expire late next year.

As of now, China has 65 pandas placed in 19 different countries as part of its “cooperative research programs,” aimed at the protection and study of this vulnerable species. When these pandas reach old age, they are repatriated to China, and any cubs born overseas are returned to China at around the age of 3 or 4.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about National Zoo pandas return

When are the National Zoo’s giant pandas returning to China?

The giant pandas at the National Zoo in Washington DC are scheduled to return to China in mid-November, ahead of the original date of December 7th.

Why is the return happening earlier than expected?

The zoo has not disclosed the specific reasons for the early departure. However, it was noted that negotiations to extend the current 50-year exchange agreement with the Chinese government have not been successful thus far.

What has fueled speculation regarding the early return?

Observers specializing in Chinese foreign policy have speculated that the early return may be part of a broader strategy by Beijing to recall pandas from Western countries, possibly due to deteriorating diplomatic relations with the United States and other nations.

Will the National Zoo have giant pandas in the future?

The zoo’s spokesperson, Annalisa Meyer, stated that they are committed to giant panda conservation and aim to have these animals at the zoo again in the future. Discussions for a renewed program will likely start after the current pandas have returned to China.

How many giant pandas are currently on loan from China to other countries?

As of now, China has 65 pandas placed in 19 different countries as part of its “cooperative research programs” with the goal of protecting and studying this vulnerable species.

What happens to cubs born in the United States?

Any cubs born to these giant pandas while they are in the United States are sent back to China when they reach around the age of 3 or 4.

Which other U.S. zoos have returned their pandas?

The San Diego Zoo returned its pandas in 2019, and the Memphis Zoo followed suit earlier this year. If the National Zoo’s pandas depart, the Atlanta Zoo will be the last remaining U.S. location with giant pandas.

When does the Atlanta Zoo’s loan agreement expire?

The loan agreement for the giant pandas at the Atlanta Zoo is slated to expire late next year.

More about National Zoo pandas return

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CryptoFanatic October 28, 2023 - 10:42 pm

Not related to crypto, but interesting news ’bout pandas goin’ back to China. China’s got lots of pandas, they loan ’em out.

JournalistJane October 29, 2023 - 8:44 am

So, pandas leavin’ sooner than we thought. Negotiations ain’t goin’ well, maybe ’cause of bad relations? Zoo’s got plans for more pandas though.


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