Chinese officials have agreed to let the pair of endangered giant pandas living at the National Zoo, stay in the U.S. for another five years.
Zang Chunlin, secretary general of the China Wildlife Conservation Association announced in a press conference on Wednesday that Mei Xiang (may-Shong) and Tian Tian (tee-Yen tee-Yen) will be able to stay at the National Zoo in Washington D.C. until December 2015. The agreement for the extension will be signed at the zoo on Thursday.
The two giant pandas have been on loan from China for the past 10 years and that agreement expired in late 2010.
Both American and China diplomats consider this extension to be an important gesture, especially since the announcement came during the U.S. visit by Chinese President Hu Jintao.
It was reported that the Chinese delegation turned off a television of the live joint press conference with Present Obama and President Hu Jintao, to hold a “panda briefing.”
But the real news behind the extension is that it will give Mei Xiang and Tian Tian time to mate and bring another endangered giant panda into the world. The pair gave birth to a panda cub named Taishan who was born at the National Zoo in 2005.
His birth drew tens of millions of fans to the zoo’s pandacam site. However, the loan agreement required Taishan to return to China in order to take part in their captive breeding program. He was shipped overseas nearly a year ago.
The new agreement will bring Chinese specialists to the United States to help Mei Xiang and Tian Tian mate or be artificially inseminated.
Giant pandas have a long history in Washington. Hsing Hsing and Ling Ling were presented by China to the U.S. in 1972 to President Richard Nixon. Americans fell in love with the animals who lived at the National Zoo for 20 years.
Video of School Kids Watching Mei Xiang and Tian Tian play.
Creative Commons - Wjarrettc