Panda family returns home from US zoo

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The Panda Express takes off carrying giant pandas from the Smithsonian’s National Zoo at Dulles International Airport in Dulles, Virginia on November 8, 2023. All three pandas from the zoo Mei Xiang, Tian Tian and their male cub Xiao Qi Ji are leaving for China.Photo;VCG

For some giant panda lovers, the return of panda family Mei Xiang, Tian Tian and their 3-year-old son Xiao Qi Ji to China could be exciting news, they heard Thursday, while some Chinese panda lovers said they would stay up late to meet the adorable ‘diplomats’ to welcome home.

According to US media reports, the panda family will land on Thursday evening in Chengdu, a megalopolis at the foothills of the Sichuan province in southwestern China, the birthplace of the giant pandas, and will be quarantined for a month in the Shenshuping Panda . Center in the Wolong National Nature Reserve, a UNESCO-recognized area of ​​protected land that is home to a third of the world’s pandas.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said at the daily press conference on Thursday that the giant panda is a rare and endangered wild animal that is loved by the people of the world and is also a friendship envoy of cultural exchanges between China and foreign countries .

China-US cooperation in giant panda conservation and research began in 1996, while China’s cooperation with the Smithsonian’s National Zoo, where the three pandas resided, began in 2000. The two sides have established a good cooperative relationship and achieved positive results in the protection and breeding of giant pandas, disease prevention and control, diagnosis and treatment, and public education, which has played an important role in strengthening the friendship between the two peoples, he said.

After Mei Xiang and her family returned to China, there are still four giant pandas in the US at Zoo Atlanta. It is believed that as ambassadors of friendship, they will continue to build a bridge of friendship between the Chinese and American people, Wang noted.

The Smithsonian’s National Zoo hosted a nine-day event from September 23 to October 1 to give thousands of devoted fans the opportunity to say goodbye to the giant panda family.

Xu Xueyuan, minister of the Chinese embassy in the US, went to the zoo to admire the panda family. Accompanied by zoo director Brandie Smith, Xu observed the entire room.

In her speech, Xu thanked the experts and staff of the zoo and other institutions for their efforts in panda conservation and reproduction. For 23 years, giant panda Mei Xiang and Tian Tian were professionally fed, and they and their four babies, Tai Shan, Bao Bao, Bei Bei and Xiao Qi Ji, have brought joy and spread knowledge to American people and people around the world. , and became stars of the zoo.

Giant pandas belong to China and the world, Xu emphasized. China is willing to continue to strengthen cooperation with its partners, including the US, to enhance cooperation and research capabilities in endangered species and biodiversity protection, so as to make greater contributions to the sustainable development of the earth and add positive energy to the friendship between peoples of different countries.

Smith said it was a historic moment that was both difficult and exciting. Mei Xiang and Tian Tian have been the stars of the zoo since they came to the US, and have become the idols in the US. Smith later noted at the airport ceremony that research collaboration on giant panda conservation between the U.S. and China has lasted more than 50 years, making it the longest continuous collaboration for the protection of a single species in the world .
“The partnership we have with China is extraordinary,” she said.

A Minnesota family told US media they were disappointed to find the zoo closed in the morning. One member of the family, a little boy, was holding a panda item called ‘Panda Panda Panda’. He said he likes pandas. “I’m going to cry when they leave,” he said.

News of the return of the giant panda family became a trending topic on Chinese social media platform Sina Weibo on Thursday, with nearly 43 million internet users expressing their joy and excitement over the pandas’ return.

“Welcome our cutest darling home! There will be endless bamboo and fresh bamboo shoots in the future, and I hope Mei Xiang and Tian Tian can enjoy their old age in China, and Xiao Qi Ji will grow up happily with researchers taking care of them the family,” Yang Te, a panda lover, told the Global Times on Thursday, wishing the panda family a safe and healthy journey home.

In the US, the family has made major contributions to the country for 23 years. It is hoped that they can feel more love and care in their hometown, said a netizen.

After the departure, Zoo Atlanta will become the only zoo in the US to have giant pandas, and their loan agreement with China for the pandas expires at the end of 2024.

While some US media are calling the pandas’ return a sign of “deteriorating China-US relations”, experts say the panda family’s return is a normal exchange between China and the US on animal protection, which is fully in line with the standard. activities and requirements.

These kinds of arguments fear improvements in China-US relations and want to continue creating an unfriendly atmosphere in the US, Li Haidong, a professor at the Institute of International Relations of China Foreign Affairs University, told the Global Times . “Pandas are pandas. They are not a weapon and should not be politicized. Such rhetoric is the biggest difficulty in China-US cultural exchanges and animal protection.”

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