San Diego Zoo

Pandas headed to San Diego Zoo quarantined in China, may being readied for travel

Yun Chuan and Xin Bao could arrive at the world-famous San Diego Zoo in the next month or so

Photo of Yun Chuan, 5-year-old male panda, released by the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance on April 26, 2024.
San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance

A crew from NBC News traveling in China this week sent new information from the country's panda sanctuary about the pair of bears headed to San Diego.

According to officials in China, San Diego's two pandas have been placed in quarantine and it's assumed, therefore, that the male and female bears could be at the San Diego Zoo sometime this summer.

Independently, the San Diego Zoo said last month that staff members recently traveled to China to meet pandas Yun Chuan and Xin Bao, which could arrive in California as soon as this summer.

Giant pandas are prized in Washington and around the nation and the world. The number of pandas in American zoos has dwindled as loan agreements lapsed during diplomatic tensions between the U.S. and China, which remain high. When U.S-China relations began to sour in recent years, members of the Chinese public started to demand the return of giant pandas. Unproven allegations that U.S. zoos mistreated the pandas, known as China’s “national treasure,” flooded China’s social media.

The pandas that had been on loan to the San Diego were sent to China in 2019.

While zoo officials have remained mum regarding the imminent arrival of San Diego's black-and-white visitors from China, a report issued by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has revealed details ahead of their long-term visit to the zoo.

San Diego Zoo prepares for pandas

An application submitted to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service last month revealed details ahead of the pandas long-term loan to the zoo.

In the San Diego Zoo's official request with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the park said it expected to have the renovated panda habitat ready for use by June, which could mean the pandas would arrive soon after.

The old exhibit, which was split into two sections, will be combined into a single habitat to give the bears more room to roam. An adjacent enclosure will also be retrofitted to allow for the expansion and more viewing space for guests. Though only two are planned for now, the enlarged exhibit has the capacity for four bears.

If the pandas arrive early, there are contingency plans for the bears, including having them possibly occupy the Andes bear exhibit on Upper Center Street temporarily.

Also in the request: If a cub is born, it would stay in San Diego at least until it's 2 years old, but no longer than four years from its birth before being sent to China. Although the duration might be different, this was the same practice in place the zoo had in the past, since the animals are the property of China and are on loan to San Diego.

After their arrival, Yun Chuan and Xin Bao will likely spend several weeks in quarantine with limited human contact as zoo staffers work to acclimate them to their new environment in San Diego.

SDZWA
A mock-up for the habitat space for two pandas from China.
SDZWA
A mock-up for the habitat space for two pandas from China.
Yun Chuan and Xin Bao are headed to San Diego! NBC 7's Joe Little has more details on the new pandas. 

MEET SAN DIEGO'S PANDAS

The San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance said its caretakers visited China in April to meet the giant pandas, Yun Chuan and Xin Bao, ahead of their planned trip to Southern California. An exact date for the handoff hasn't been set.

Yun Chuan, a mild-mannered male who's nearly 5 years old, has “deep connections” to California, the wildlife alliance said. His mother, Zhen Zhen, was born at the San Diego Zoo in 2007 to parents Bai Yun and Gao Gao.

Yun Chuan is a mild-mannered male who's nearly 5 years old.

Xin Bao is a nearly 4-year-old female described as “a gentle and witty introvert with a sweet round face and big ears.”

NBC 7's Steven Luke gives us a sneak peek at the giant pandas coming to San Diego.
Xin Bao is a nearly four-year-old female giant panda who was born in Wolong Shenshuping Panda Base. (San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance)

“Our conservation partners in China shared photographs and personality traits of Yun Chuan and Xin Bao, but meeting them in person was so special," said Dr. Megan Owen, the alliance's vice president of conservation science. “It’s inspiring as people from around the world come together to conserve, protect, and care for these special bears, and we can’t wait to welcome them to San Diego.”

The San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance has a nearly 30-year partnership with leading conservation institutions in China focused on protecting and recovering giant pandas and the bamboo forests they depend on.

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