San Diego Zoo

As pandas prepare to depart for San Diego, Mayor Todd Gloria in China for farewell

San Diego's mayor is flying to China Tuesday to participate in a farewell ceremony for pandas Yun Chuan and Xin Bao

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Mayor Todd Gloria participated in farewell ceremonies for the two giant pandas coming to the San Diego Zoo under a research and conservation agreement.

Leaders of the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance joined dignitaries and conservation leaders earlier Wednesday in China at the China Conservation & Research Center for Giant Pandas in Sichuan province for a farewell ceremony honoring the two giant pandas coming to the San Diego Zoo.

An exact date has not been made public yet, but the zoo said the pandas, Yun Chuan (pronounced yoon chu-an) and Xin Bao (pronounced sing bow), will travel to San Diego after the farewell ceremony.

After the pandas have arrived in San Diego, the zoo said they will not be viewable to the public for several weeks while they acclimate to their new home. Once the pandas are ready to meet the public, the zoo will share a debut date with specific information.

The conservation collaboration between San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance and China Wildlife Conservation Association "aims to improve giant panda population health and resilience in some of the smallest and most isolated populations vulnerable to extinction and loss of genetic diversity," according to a statement from the San Diego Zoo.

According to a Wildlife Alliance statement, Yun Chuan is nearly 5 years old and is described as mild-mannered, gentle and lovable. He is the son of Zhen Zhen (pronounced jen jen) who was born at the San Diego Zoo in 2007 to parents Bai Yun (pronounced bye yoon) and Gao Gao (pronounced gow gow). The first character of his name, "Yun," is a nod to his grandmother Bai Yun, who lived at the San Diego Zoo for 23 years.

Xin Bao is a nearly 4-year-old female and is described as a "gentle and witty introvert with a sweet round face and big ears," a zoo statement reads. Her name means a "new treasure of prosperity and abundance."

"It was an honor to see Yun Chuan and Xin Bao in person and meet our conservation partners caring for them at the Wolong and Bifengxia Panda Bases," said Dr. Megan Owen, vice president of conservation science at San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance in April. "Yun Chuan's lineage has deep connections to the San Diego Zoo, and we're excited by the prospect of caring for them."

China recalled almost all of its pandas who were on loan to zoos in the United States around five years ago after relations between the two countries soured. Cooperation between China and the United States has led to the possibility of pandas returning to zoos, including the San Diego Zoo.

"The return to San Diego of giant pandas is a testament to the nearly 30-year partnership the San Diego Zoo and Wildlife Alliance forged with China to successfully protect these magnificent creatures," Gloria said in February, when a deal between China and the United States first made news. "I'm pleased this positive relationship and our advocacy have resulted in this major announcement. San Diegans look forward to welcoming the pandas back to America's Finest City."

There is typically a $1 million per year fee paid by the zoos for two pandas and the money is used for China's conservation efforts, according to a 2022 report by America's Congressional Research Service.

China first gifted the U.S. with pandas in 1972, when two were sent to the National Zoo in Washington, D.C. Part of the goal in loaning pandas to zoos in the United States was to help breed cubs and boost the population.

Conservation efforts have saved the giant pandas from extinction by increasing the population from fewer than 1,000 to more than 1,800 in the wild and captivity, causing the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List to downgrade the giant panda from Endangered to Vulnerable in 2021.

While in China, Gloria will also attend meetings in Beijing with senior officials at the National Forestry and Grassland Administration to "further enhance conservation opportunities and participation of the two peoples," a statement from the mayor's office reads. He will arrive back in San Diego in the early morning on Sunday.

Copyright CNS - City News Service
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