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San Diego Zoo expecting giant pandas from China

The San Diego Zoo might have to make room for some familiar faces that have been missing for a few years upon news Thursday of China planning to send over two giant pandas.

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

The potential deal includes China sending pandas to a zoo in Washington, D.C. China is also in discussions to send pandas to zoos in Madrid, Spain, and Vienna, Austria, according to media reports.


If all permits and requirements are approved, the pandas, a male and a female, could arrive in San Diego as early as the end of summer, about five years after the last pandas were sent back to China.

The new agreement is rooted in meetings between President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping in Northern California in November. During the face-to-face meetings, the two presidents discussed ways to ease tensions between the two nations.

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.

One of the pandas China is reportedly considering sending to the San Diego Zoo is a female descendent of Bai Yun and Gao Gao, two pandas that previously were on loan to the San Diego Zoo.

Bai Yun was born in captivity in China and lived at the San Diego Zoo for more than 20 years. She gave birth to six cubs at the zoo. She and one of her sons were the zoo's last pandas and were returned to China in 2019.


Gao Gao was born in the wild in China and was at the San Diego Zoo for 16 years, from 2003 to 2018, when he was sent back.

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 U.S. 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.