San Diego Zoo Leaders Visit China to Meet Pandas Headed to California

San Diego Zoo Leaders Visit China to Meet Pandas Headed to California

Pandas at the San Diego Zoo. (Courtesy of San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance)

City News Service

City News Service

4/29/2024

Updated: 4/29/2024

SAN DIEGO—San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance leaders recently visited China to meet the two giant pandas they hope will arrive at the zoo as soon as this summer, it was announced April 29.
The zoo conservation and care team leaders met Yun Chuan and Xin Bao at the Wolong Shenshuping Panda Base in Sichuan Province.
“It was an honor to see Yun Chuan and Xin Bao in person and meet our conservation partners caring for them at the Wolong and Bifengxia Panda Bases,” said Dr. Megan Owen, vice president of conservation science at San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance. “Yun Chuan’s lineage has deep connections to the San Diego Zoo, and we’re excited by the prospect of caring for them.”
According to a Wildlife Alliance statement, Yun Chuan is nearly five years old and is described as mild-mannered, gentle and lovable. He is the son of Zhen Zhen, who was born at San Diego Zoo in 2007 to parents Bai Yun and Gao Gao. The first character of his name, “Yun,” is a nod to his grandmother Bai Yun, who lived at the San Diego Zoo for 23 years.
Xin Bao is a nearly four-year-old female and is described as a “gentle and witty introvert with a sweet round face and big ears,” a zoo statement reads. Her name means a “new treasure of prosperity and abundance.”
“Our conservation partners in China shared photographs and personality traits of Yun Chuan and Xin Bao, but meeting them in person was so special,” Ms. Owen said. “It’s inspiring as people from around the world come together to conserve, protect and care for these special bears, and we can’t wait to welcome them to San Diego.”
The San Diego Zoo leaders met with Chinese veterinarians and conservation partners to discuss proper care for the animals and how to further protect them.
While it is not yet known when Yun Chuan and Xin Bao will come in San Diego, the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance and China Wildlife Conservation Association are hoping for a summer arrival.
China recalled almost all of its pandas that were on loan to zoos in the United States around five years ago after relations between the two countries soured. Cooperation between China and the U.S. has led to the possibility of pandas returning to zoos, including the San Diego Zoo.
“The return to San Diego of giant pandas is a testament to the nearly 30 year partnership the San Diego Zoo and Wildlife Alliance forged with China to successfully protect these magnificent creatures,” said San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria in February, when a deal between China and the United States first made news. “I’m pleased this positive relationship and our advocacy have resulted in this major announcement. San Diegans look forward to welcoming the pandas back to America’s Finest City.”
There is typically a $1 million per year fee paid by the zoos for two pandas and the money is used for China’s conservation efforts, according to a 2022 report by America’s Congressional Research Service.
China first gifted the U.S. with pandas in 1972, when two were sent to the National Zoo in Washington, D.C. Part of the goal in loaning pandas to zoos in the U.S. was to help breed cubs and boost the population.
Conservation efforts have saved the giant pandas from extinction by increasing the population from fewer than 1,000 to more than 1,800 in the wild and captivity, causing the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List to downgrade the giant panda from Endangered to Vulnerable in 2021.
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