The Smithsonian’s National Zoo and the Conservation Biology Institute held a special celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Panda Exchange program with China.
Mother and son giant pandas Mei Xiang and Xiao Qi Ji were given a special treat, a fruitsicle cake made from diluted pineapple and apple juice topped with yellow groove bamboo, sweet potato, carrot, pear, apple, sugar cane, and banana.
Tian Tian, Mei Xiang’s partner, also enjoyed the same delicious fruitsicle cake that afternoon.
These giant pandas are among the National Zoo’s main attractions, and they are considered national treasures in China.
Pandaversary, A Celebration of the Precious Partnership between the United States and China
The event was informally called Pandaversary by the National Zoo officials, who welcomed Chinese ambassador Qin Gang to speak during the occasion.
According to the ambassador, the giant panda exchange program was “a symbol of the friendship” between the People’s Republic of China and the United States of America.
After First Lady Patricia Nixon mentioned she loved visiting the pandas in China, Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai gifted to the American people the @NationalZoo’s first pandas. Ling-Ling and Hsing-Hsing arrived in April 1972 to great fanfare. #GP50 pic.twitter.com/eO9ZpYWu1j
— Lonnie G. Bunch III (@SmithsonianSec) April 16, 2022
The exchange program started in 1972, when Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai presented the National Zoo with a pair of pandas upon learning that First Lady Patricia Nixon was fond of visiting pandas during her trips to China, according to Lonnie G. Bunch III, 14th secretary of the Smithsonian Institution.
Twelve years later, the gifting program was adjusted into a loan program. It was stated in the agreement that ‘pandas bred in China can only be loaned to an international ally for 10 years.’ This means that Mei Xiang and Tian Tian will be returned to China in 2023.
Giant Panda Population Is on the Rebound!
In 1990, the Red List of Threatened Species of the International Union for Conservation of Nature officially declared the giant pandas an endangered species. At that time, there were only 1,000 to 2,000 pandas in the wild, and their population continued to dwindle.
In 2016, the endangered species status was downgraded to vulnerable. Nevertheless, China remained deeply committed to its panda conservation efforts.
“If we downgrade their conservation status, or neglect or relax our conservation work, the populations and habitats of giant pandas could still suffer irreversible loss, and our achievements would be quickly lost,” China’s State Forestry Administration told The Associated Press.
Today, it is estimated that there are about 2,000 giant pandas in the wild. The Chinese government, local communities, and international organizations like the World Wide Fund for Nature continue to work together to boost their population by increasing areas of their habitat, patrolling against poachers and illegal loggers, and continuing monitoring and research activities.
Developments like this are good news for everyone who cannot resist loving these iconic animals with their black and white coloring and passion for bamboo.Whizzco