US, China extend giant panda deal by three years

WASHINGTON (AFP) – Giant pandas will remain at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo in Washington for another three years under an agreement reached with Chinese wildlife officials, the zoo said on Monday.

The panda loan deal between the United States (US) and China had been set to expire in December.

The National Zoo said it had signed a three-year extension with the Conservation Biology Institute and China Wildlife and Conservation Association.

Under the agreement, the National Zoo’s 22-year-old female giant panda Mei Xiang, 23-year-old male giant panda Tian Tian and their cub, Xiao Qi Ji, born on August 21, would go to China in December 2023.

“Along with millions of Americans, I look forward to the next three years, watching Xiao Qi Ji grow and making further strides in conservation and in our understanding of giant pandas,” said Director of the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute Steve Monfort.

The National Zoo has hosted giant pandas from China since 1972 and Mei Xiang and Tian Tian have been at the zoo since December 2000.

Xiao Qi Ji is their fourth surviving cub. The other three were returned to China.

File photo shows a panda cub named Xiao Qi Ji in Washington. PHOTO: AP