‘Pandaversary’ underlines 50 years of successful cooperation between China and the United States on the conservation of giant pandas
‘Pandaversary’ underlines 50 years of successful cooperation between China and the United States on the conservation of giant pandas

‘Pandaversary’ underlines 50 years of successful cooperation between China and the United States on the conservation of giant pandas

The giant panda cub “Xiao Qi Ji” (R) and its mother “Mei Xiang” enjoy an ice cream cake at the Smithsonians National Zoo in Washington, DC, USA, on April 16, 2022. (Xinhua / Liu Jie)

The male giant panda cub Xiao Qi Ji did a lot to climb on the backs of his mother, Mei Xiang, only to fall sweetly down before they were both attracted to an ice cream cake made from their favorite treats, including sugar cane, carrots, apples and bamboo.

The “eating shows” Saturday morning, part of the Smithsonian’s National Zoo’s “Pandaversary” party, were very happy for visitors of all ages. At least 18,000 people are said to have signed up to visit the Northwest Washington, DC Zoo during the day.

“We are celebrating 50 years with giant pandas at the National Zoo and the incredible success story of partnership and conservation that we have made over the years,” Brandie Smith Zoo Director Xinhua told the site. “The best thing about working with giant pandas is that we work so closely with our colleagues in China.”

While watching the giant pandas have fun in their outdoor patios, “Pandaversary” partygoers also had the opportunity to taste giant panda-shaped “Baozi” buns, sample Chinese calligraphy and see lion dance performances and the world premiere of the Smithsonian Channel’s documentary “Miracle Panda” at the zoo.

With a giant panda ear strap, Kirsten from Washington, DC told Xinhua that she got up very early to make sure she could see the adorable animals eating the fruit sickles on “a very important day for me and for the pandas at the zoo” and that she felt well”.

The Chinese Ambassador to the United States Qin Band and members of the Embassy also attended the event. In a speech to reporters, Qin said that over the past 50 years, China and the United States have achieved a great deal in the conservation of giant pandas, and that giant pandas are no longer an “endangered” species.

In February 1972, Richard Nixon became the first American president to visit the People’s Republic of China since its founding in 1949. During the groundbreaking journey, his wife, Patricia Nixon, mentioned her predilection for giant pandas to then-Chinese Prime Minister Zhou Enlai, who later presented two of the Chinese “national treasures” to the American people as a gesture of benevolence. The U.S. government retaliated by sending a pair of Alaska musk oxen to China.

Nixons chose the Smithsonian’s National Zoo as the home of female Ling-Ling and male Hsing-Hsing in the United States. The giant panda couple arrived in Washington, DC on April 16, 1972.

Days later, wearing a giant panda needle, Patricia Nixon formally welcomed the precious gift from China, declaring that “I think ‘panda-monium’ will break out in the zoo.”

“This became something of an event, not because of Mrs. Nixon’s presence, but because of the pandas, which was great news,” said Chas Freeman, the U.S. State Department’s escort officer for the Chinese delegation who brought the giant pandas to the U.S. capital and interpreter. by Mrs. Nixon’s acceptance of them at the zoo, Xinhua said during a virtual interview.

“Everyone who sees pandas reacts the same way. They are cute. They are lovable. They do not seem dangerous at all,” said Freeman, also an interpreter for the Nixon delegation during his visit to China in 1972, about giant pandas. “You probably want to hug them, and they were very exotic, and this was a symbol of a fresh start in the relationship between the United States and China.”

Mrs. Nixon’s prediction turned out to be correct. The public debut of Ling-Ling and Hsing-Hsing alone drew 20,000 visitors. The following Sunday, 75,000 people thronged the zoo, waiting in line to catch a glimpse of them. The pair of giant pandas were the main attractions at the zoo until they died separately in the 1990s.

Mei Xiang and Tian Tian came to Washington in December 2000 and continued to become new “rock stars” in the famous zoo, bringing great happiness and joy along with their cubs to not only personal visitors but also fans from all over the world via Giant Panda Cams, which is said to have been viewed more than 100 million times.

Ever since giant pandas came to the zoo, the iconic species has symbolized cross-cultural cooperation between the United States and China.

With giant pandas, the zoo has been given a unique opportunity to study the animal’s behavior, health, reproduction and ecology. The decades-old partnership has also enabled American animal care workers and scientists to learn about and study giant panda breeding and the development of young as well as their native habitat.

In return, the zoo’s breeding, veterinary and ecological research has provided critical data and valuable insights for the conservation of wild populations. Smithsonian researchers also created a framework for how giant pandas are bred to improve breeding success and genetic diversity, which has also been used by zoos across the globe for other animals.

Smith also revealed that the zoo has talked to colleagues in China about a further extension of their cooperative research and breeding agreement for giant pandas, which has been renewed three times since 2000. The current extension of the research agreement was signed in December 2020 and assumes, that giant pandas can live in the zoo until December 2023.

“Very positive conversations. Our interactions are very positive,” she added. “I think we are all very interested in ensuring that this program continues for another 50 years.”

Working together, China and the United States can get things done, Ambassador Qin said. “We have the wisdom and courage to maintain cooperation and deliver results, not only in the conservation of giant pandas, but in many other areas, for the benefit of the people of both countries and the world.”



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