Written by 17:55 World

Giant Pandas Will Head to D.C.’s National Zoo From China

It was a long and terrible six months without giant pandas, Washington’s most famous symbol of literal soft diplomacy, but this unbearable (sorry) drought will soon be over.

The Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute announced on Wednesday that two new fuzzy diplomats will soon be on their way to the United States from China. The pandas, Bao Li and Qing Bao, will be flown over before the end of the year, the zoo said in a statement.

They are both 2 years old — young for a Washington power couple — and their anticipated arrival is after the departure in November of two adult pandas, Mei Xiang and Tian Tian, who are the grandparents of the male, Bao Li.

The giant panda swapping has been a characteristic of a longtime pact between the Smithsonian and the China Wildlife Conservation Association. Last year, when the agreement keeping the three in the United States expired, panda fans and diplomats alike worried about tensions between China and Washington, and whether those strained ties would prevent the program from continuing.

At a diplomatic summit in San Francisco in November, Xi Jinping, China’s leader, hinted that the pandas, which he called “envoys of friendship” between the two countries, could be returning to the United States. As it turns out, the two zoos hammered out another agreement without the help of high-level diplomacy, according to officials familiar with the pact who were not authorized to speak publicly about such delicate matters. The San Diego Zoo will also receive a pair of pandas, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in China confirmed earlier this month.

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Last modified: 30 May 2024
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