True story: When our daughter #3 was in high school, she had a boyfriend who was of decidedly mixed ancestry. His father was an American, the product of a black father and a white mother; his mother was from China. Since his ancestry was black, white, and Chinese, it took about five seconds for the kids in that school to tag him with the nickname “Panda.” He took it in good humor.
Everyone loves real pandas, those adorable little black-and-white Chinese bamboo-munching bears, and for quite a while, China would from time to time send some of their fuzzy ambassadors to take up residence in American zoos. Now, it looks like China may be resuming the supply of pandas.
Is Chairman Xi – forgive me – ‘panda’ing’ to the United States?
China plans to send a new pair of giant pandas to the San Diego Zoo, renewing its longstanding gesture of friendship toward the United States after a recalling nearly all the iconic bears on loan to U.S. zoos as relations soured between the two nations.
The China Wildlife Conservation Association has signed cooperation agreements with zoos in San Diego and Madrid, the Spanish capital, and is in talks with zoos in Washington, D.C. and Vienna, the Chinese organization said, describing the deals as a new round of collaboration on panda conservation.
Color me skeptical about the “longstanding gesture of friendship.” That’s just a little more of a stretch than I can bear. But I’m willing to paws my skepticism to see San Diego get some pandas, and that facility has experience with the Chinese critters.
San Diego Zoo officials told The Associated Press that if all permits and other requirements are approved, two bears, a male and a female, are expected to arrive as early as the end of summer, about five years after the zoo sent its last pandas back to China.
“We’re very excited and hopeful,” said Megan Owen of the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance and vice president of Wildlife Conservation Science. “They’ve expressed a tremendous amount of enthusiasm to re-initiate panda cooperation starting with the San Diego Zoo.”
Zoos typically pay a fee of $1 million a year for two pandas, with the money earmarked for China’s conservation efforts, according to a 2022 report by America’s Congressional Research Service.
At least these Chinese immigrants will be coming in legally.
Zoos have done benchmark work with threatened and endangered species. There are great benefits as well to placing these creatures in protected environments, and one of those benefits is of course that people will pay to see them, making the institution (hopefully) self-sustaining – as in, without government subsidy (although zoos often receive some public funding.
China, of course, has touted the gifted pandas as a symbol of friendship between the United States and the Middle Kingdom, and it’s interesting to see this development right when Chairman Xi is becoming more bellicose.
This may be a sign of China seeking to ease up on tensions, just when it looks like trouble has been bruin between the two countries. If so, good. If not, well, San Diego will still, hopefully, get some pandas; the fuzzy critters will be better off breathing free air.