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San Diego Zoo Bids Farewell To Giant Panda Gao Gao

Giant panda Gao Gao is pictured in this undated photo.
Courtesy of the San Diego Zoo
Giant panda Gao Gao is pictured in this undated photo.

The San Diego Zoo said goodbye Tuesday to a giant panda named Gao Gao, sending him back to his homeland as part of a research loan agreement with China.

Gao Gao fathered five cubs during his 15 years in San Diego. He was born in the wild in China around 1990 and was taken in by researchers after he sustained injuries that resulted in the loss of part of his left ear. He spent time in the Fengtongzhai Nature Reserve and the Wolong Panda Conservation Center before being brought to the San Diego Zoo in 2003.

Gao Gao is headed to the Chinese Center for Research and Conservation for the Giant Panda in Dujiangyan. Animal caretakers from San Diego Zoo Global plan to assist their counterparts at the CCRCGP help acclimate the panda to his new home.


"Preparations to move any animal internationally takes a great deal of planning, where the needs of the animal are considered in all preparations," said San Diego Zoo Senior Keeper Kathy Hawk. "For Gao Gao, it was important that we acclimate him to travel accommodations, adjust his diet and monitor him carefully, to provide him a seamless transition for repatriation to his homeland."

The zoo began an international partnership roughly 25 years ago with the CCRCGP, the China Wildlife Conservation Association and the Chinese Academy of Sciences to further giant panda research and conservation. Due to the success of the partnership, the International Union for Conservation of Nature downgraded the giant panda's classification from endangered to vulnerable. According to zoo officials, there are roughly 2,000 giant pandas in the wild today, whereas there were fewer than 1,000 in the wild prior to the zoo's research collaboration.

"Thanks to the work we've done, we have met the initial conservation goals we set more than 25 years ago," said Carmi Penny, the zoo's director of Collections Husbandry Science. "Now, we must look to the future with a new set of objectives and, along with our collaborators in China, build on current conservation successes while attaining a deeper understanding of the panda."