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Pandas could be gone from America香蕉视频直播檚 zoos by the end of next year


Wearing an 香蕉视频直播淚 Love Pandas香蕉视频直播 T-shirt and clutching a panda-covered diary, Kelsey Lambert bubbled with excitement as she glimpsed the real thing. She and her mother, Alison, had made a special trip from San Antonio just to watch casually munching bamboo and rolling around on the grass.

香蕉视频直播淚t felt completely amazing,香蕉视频直播 Kelsey, age 10, said Friday. 香蕉视频直播淢y mom has always promised she would take me one day. So we had to do it now that they香蕉视频直播檙e going away.香蕉视频直播

The National Zoo香蕉视频直播檚 three giant pandas 香蕉视频直播 Mei Xiang, Tian Tian and their cub Xiao Qi Ji 香蕉视频直播 are set to return to China in early December with no public signs that the 50-year-old exchange agreement struck by President Richard Nixon will continue.

National Zoo officials have remained tight-lipped about the prospects of renewing or extending the agreement, and repeated attempts to gain comment on the state of the negotiations did not receive a response. However, the public stance of the zoo has been decidedly pessimistic 香蕉视频直播 treating these remaining months as the end of an era. The zoo just finished a weeklong celebration called .

The potential end of the National Zoo香蕉视频直播檚 panda era comes amid what veteran China-watchers say is a larger trend. With running high between Beijing and a number of Western governments, China appears to be gradually pulling back its pandas from multiple Western zoos as their agreements expire.

Dennis Wilder, a senior fellow at Georgetown University香蕉视频直播檚 Initiative for U.S.-China Dialogue on Global Issues, called the trend 香蕉视频直播減unitive panda diplomacy,香蕉视频直播 noting that two other American zoos have lost their pandas in recent years, while zoos in Scotland and Australia are facing similar departures with no signs of their loan agreements being renewed.

Beijing currently lends out 65 pandas to 19 countries through 香蕉视频直播渃ooperative research programs香蕉视频直播 with a stated mission to better protect the vulnerable species. The pandas return to China when they reach old age and any cubs born are sent to China around age 3 or 4.

The San Diego zoo returned its pandas in 2019, and the last bear at the Memphis, Tennessee, zoo went home earlier this year. The departure of the National Zoo香蕉视频直播檚 bears would mean that the only giant pandas left in America are at the Atlanta Zoo 香蕉视频直播 and that loan agreement expires late next year.

Wilder said the Chinese possibly could be 香蕉视频直播渢rying to send a signal.香蕉视频直播

He cited a litany of Chinese-American flashpoints: on prominent Chinese citizens and officials; restrictions on the import of Chinese semiconductors; accusations that Chinese-made fentanyl is flooding American cities; suspicion over Chinese ownership of ; and the uproar early this year over floating over America.

Beijing, Wilder said, is convinced that 香蕉视频直播淣ATO and the United States are lining up against China.香蕉视频直播

The panda-related tension has even spilled into the hallways of the U.S. Senate. Last week, Pennsylvania Democrat John Fetterman complained about China buying up American farmland and added, 香蕉视频直播淚 mean, they香蕉视频直播檙e taking back our pandas. You know, we should take back all their farmland.香蕉视频直播

That animosity has been at least partially shared by the public in China, where anti-American sentiments are on the rise. Those sentiments developed into a perfect panda storm earlier this year when Le Le, a male panda on loan to the zoo in Memphis, in February at the age of 24. Pandas generally live 15 to 20 years in the wild, while those in human care often live to be around 30.

Le Le香蕉视频直播檚 unexpected death prompted an explosion on Chinese social media platforms like Weibo, with widespread allegations that the Memphis zoo had mistreated the bear and its female companion, Ya Ya. The campaign gained intensity when photos circulated on the Internet of Ya Ya looking dirty and gaunt (by panda standards) with patchy fur.

An online petition on Change.org demanded Ya Ya be returned immediately, alleging malnourishment and deprivation of proper medical care. Slogans such as 香蕉视频直播渢he panda香蕉视频直播檚 life matters香蕉视频直播 surfaced in China香蕉视频直播檚 social media along with emotional memes pleading with authorities to rescue the bear. One particular meme depicts a miserable-looking Ya Ya gazing at a plane flying overhead with the caption: 香蕉视频直播淢ama, I have worked away from home for 20 years. Have I earned enough for a plane ticket to return home?香蕉视频直播

The heat grew so intense that the Memphis Zoo released a statement responding to what it called 香蕉视频直播渕isinformation香蕉视频直播 about its pandas and stating that Ya Ya has 香蕉视频直播渁 chronic skin and fur condition香蕉视频直播 that 香蕉视频直播渕akes her hair look thin and patchy香蕉视频直播 and that Le Le died of natural causes.

Even an official Chinese scientific delegation that visited Memphis and announced that Le Le was not mistreated and died of a heart condition failed to quell the outrage. Ya Ya was returned to China on schedule in April when the loan agreement expired and received a celebrity香蕉视频直播檚 welcome at Shanghai香蕉视频直播檚 airport.

The Chinese government, which gifted the first pair of pandas 香蕉视频直播 Hsing Hsing and Ling Ling 香蕉视频直播 to the U.S., now leases the pandas out for a typical 10-year renewable term. The annual fee ranges from $1 million to $2 million per pair, plus mandatory costs to build and maintain facilities to house the animals. Any cub born to the pandas belongs to the Chinese government but can be leased for an additional fee until it reaches mating age.

Over the 50 years of American panda loan agreements, the arrangement has hit more than one rough patch. In 2010, Daniel Ashe, then head of the federal Fish and Wildlife Service, traveled to China to help resolve a technical bureaucratic issue that was threatening the renewal of the National Zoo香蕉视频直播檚 agreement. The problem was quickly resolved, and the agreement was extended.

香蕉视频直播淏ut the situation now is completely different,香蕉视频直播 said Ashe, now CEO of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. 香蕉视频直播淲hat we香蕉视频直播檙e seeing now is tensions between our governments at a much higher level, and they need to be addressed and resolved at that level.香蕉视频直播

Observers are holding out hope that exactly this sort of 11th-hour high-level intervention will come through. Wilder pointed to the upcoming in San Francisco in November as a potential forum for President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping to make headlines by breaking the deadlock. And Chinese Ambassador to the U.S. Xie Feng has sounded semi-optimistic in his public statements.

香蕉视频直播淚 will do my utmost to do that, and here, in Aspen, there also will be (pandas),香蕉视频直播 Xie said during the Aspen Security Forum in July in Aspen, Colorado.

But for now, panda-philes of all ages are making pilgrimages to Washington for a last glimpse at the bears. At the zoo on Friday, amid the chatter of children, was an adult couple with a baby on the way 香蕉视频直播 each wearing matching panda-ears headbands. Colleen Blue and John Nungesser came from outside Philadelphia to see the pandas; this was Blue香蕉视频直播檚 third time.

香蕉视频直播淚香蕉视频直播檝e been obsessed with them since I was little. I used to just bury people in panda facts,香蕉视频直播 she said.

Nungesser nodded, adding, 香蕉视频直播淥n our first date, she went on and on about pandas.香蕉视频直播

Blue said she broke into tears and 香蕉视频直播渉ad a temper tantrum香蕉视频直播 when she found out that Washington香蕉视频直播檚 pandas would be leaving. The couple is already making plans, after their baby is born, to take the infant to see the pandas in Atlanta next summer before they leave.

And Alison Lambert, Kelsey香蕉视频直播檚 mom, said she remains optimistic that both sides will work out an agreement simply because it香蕉视频直播檚 mutually beneficial. And if they don香蕉视频直播檛, Kelsey is already developing Plan B.

香蕉视频直播淲e could always fly to China,香蕉视频直播 she said. 香蕉视频直播淭hat works, too.香蕉视频直播


Associated Press writers Seth Borenstein and Rebecca Santana contributed to this report.

Ashraf Khalil And Didi Tang, The Associated Press