This may be a manifestation of Beijing’s so-called “panda diplomacy”, or a coincidence: but there will be no pandas in North American territory by the beginning of 2024.
All giant pandas living in the United States of America are returning to China, in what may be a sign of cooling relations between the two countries. The latest case is that of a panda at the Washington Zoo, which is scheduled to return in December, the month the three-year lease agreement expires.
The US capital will thus join other zoos in the country such as Atlanta, San Diego and Memphis that have already returned their animals to China or are preparing to do so in early 2024.
Bloomberg News explains that these proceeds could be a manifestation of so-called “panda diplomacy,” which has been used over the years to reward friendly countries, punish opposing countries, or obtain favors. Giant pandas are almost always transported – not sold – to other countries via China, so their full care rests solely with the Asian country. In return, China gets thousands of dollars.
“There is some significance to the fact that all the pandas in the United States will return to China by 2024,” says Elena Songster, a professor at Saint Mary’s University in California and author of “Panda Nation,” a book about “panda diplomacy.” “They have a plan. They know what they’re doing,” he ensures.
The first giant panda arrived in the United States in 1972 during the presidency of Richard Nixon, who normalized relations with China. But this diplomacy has an impact not only on North American lands: in 2013, a study showed the relationship between uranium agreements between China and France and the lending of Chinese pandas to the European country.
In April, accusations surfaced on Chinese social media against the Memphis Zoo for mistreating Ya Ya. The giant panda had lived in the United States since 2003 and returned after several associations complained that the panda appeared to suffer from mange and was skinny. But the Chinese government did not support these statements, stressing that the North American Zoo took good care of the animal.
Bloomberg says there are other reasons that could justify the return of the animals, such as them having reached the age to return to China (the specimens found in Washington are over 23 years old, excluding three-year-old offspring), or the country is building a network of national parks that will ensure their preservation. And its reproduction.
It’s unclear whether the Washington Zoo will remain panda-free for long: In November, Chinese President Xi Jinping is expected to attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum in San Francisco, and the issue of giant pandas in the U.S. may be… An issue that must be addressed.
In Portugal, it is not possible to see giant pandas, but in the Spanish capital, yes: in the Aquatic Zoo, there is a pair of pandas that have already managed to give birth to two cubs through artificial insemination.
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