Bye Pandas

Pandas to USA: So Long, and Thanks For All The Bamboo

Friends, I have terrible news on the U.S. panda relations front: those weird little guys are leaving our shores, possibly forever.

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So here’s a fun fact, much like the monarch of the United Kingdom owns all mute swans in the U.K. China owns all giant pandas in the world, except for one in Mexico. This means that any panda you’ve seen in a zoo is on loan from the Chinese government, and those pandas can be called home at will. Unfortunately, that means the three giant pandas who used to call the National Zoo in Washington, D.C. home are going to their homeland because China wants them back. Per CNN:

For the steady stream of visitors, it’s their last chance to see Tian Tian, Mei Xiang and their youngest cub, Xiao Qi Ji, before the black-and-white bears head back to China on Wednesday.

Their departure marks the end of more than 50 years of Chinese pandas being housed at the zoo, which was the first US zoo to showcase the bears as part of what’s been called “panda diplomacy.”

“Panda diplomacy” may sound like a weird term, but it makes sense if you think about it. China is the only country in the world where pandas exist, so the Chinese government has a monopoly on them, and pandas are the perfect intersection of cute, weird, and interesting. You don’t see anyone knocking down Australia’s door to get platypuses at their zoos, do you?! No! Platypuses are weird-looking and venomous! I’m sure if America was the only country with pandas, we would have tried to teach them to set off bombs or telepathically communicate with world leaders to do our bidding, so really, I find China’s actions pretty benign, all things considered.

This does, however, mean that seeing giant pandas in American zoos might become a thing of the past. As of today, there is only one other zoo in the county, Atlanta, that has giant pandas, and their panda contract is up for renewal next year. Boo!

This is a far cry from the height of the China panda American zoo loan program, which has existed since 1972. Per CNN:

At the height of the program, there were 15 pandas at one time in the United States, but in the past decade, the numbers have dropped – coinciding with worsening US-China relations. And soon, there could be no more pandas at American zoos.

Earlier this year, videos surfaced on Chinese social media claiming pandas returning from the Memphis Zoo were being abused. Partially fueled by Chinese state media, the claims went viral.

It should be noted that the Memphis zoo panda, according to the Chinese veterinarians who treated the panda, was not abused.

If you think this is personal to America, it’s not. China has been slowly recalling their pandas home for years now. Per the above source:

Including the United States, 23 countries have pandas on loan from China, but that number is dwindling. Scotland will lose its two pandas in December when the Edinburgh Zoo must return them to China; Australia’s Adelaide Zoo has its two pandas only for one more year.

China, it seems, is ascribing to the “panda rule,” as in, those who have the pandas make the rules.

Ultimately, though, I just hope China is acting in the best interest of those weird-looking bears. I like them! I want them to thrive! Just, throw us all a bone, and put up some live cams, would you?

(Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)


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Author
Kate Hudson
Kate Hudson (no, not that one) has been writing about pop culture and reality TV in particular for six years, and is a Contributing Writer at The Mary Sue. With a deep and unwavering love of Twilight and Con Air, she absolutely understands her taste in pop culture is both wonderful and terrible at the same time. She is the co-host of the popular Bravo trivia podcast Bravo Replay, and her favorite Bravolebrity is Kate Chastain, and not because they have the same first name, but it helps.