Animals and Insects

Panda diplomacy returns: China to send more bears to the US this year

The two new furry friends, a male and a female, are expected to arrive at the San Diego Zoo by as early as this summer.

Panda diplomacy returns: China to send more bears to the US this year
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In what could be interpreted as a positive sign in relations between two world superpowers, China has agreed to send a new pair of giant pandas to the United States later this year after nearly all of the bears were removed from American zoos in recent years.

The San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance announced Thursday that it had signed a cooperative agreement with the China Wildlife Conservation Association to resume the so-called "panda diplomacy" between the two countries.

"Pandas in our care and in the care of Chinese colleagues at conservation facilities play an important role as assurance against extinction and loss of genetic diversity in their native habitats, as well as a source population for reintroductions," said Dr. Megan Owen, Vice President of Conservation Science. "Our partnership over the decades has served as a powerful example of how—when we work together—we can achieve what was once thought to be impossible."

Zoo says it found 70 coins inside alligator's stomach
Zoo says it found 70 coins inside alligator's stomach

Zoo says it found 70 coins inside alligator's stomach

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Panda diplomacy for the U.S. dates back to 1972 when the first pair of giant pandas arrived as a gift from China. Since then, nine pandas and 17 surviving cubs have spent time in U.S. zoos on loan from China.  

For China, the benefit to panda diplomacy is improving the country's international image. But there's also a financial upside as panda loan agreements typically include large sums of money, often $1 million per year per pair of pandas.

However, amid deteriorating ties between the two countries, only four giant pandas currently remain in the U.S.: Two adults and two cubs at a zoo in Atlanta. All others have been returned to China. 

The Chinese government hasn't explained why pandas from the U.S. and some other Western nations were returned in recent years. It could be as simple as the lease agreements coming to an end, but experts have said it's hard not to see a connection with current-day politics. 

Nevertheless, it appears the U.S. will now get to welcome two new furry friends into the country yet again. Officials with the San Diego Zoo told the Associated Press that they expect to receive a male and a female by the end of this summer, as long as all requirements are met.