It's OctoBEAR and you know what that means!
The Annual Encore Presentation of The Wizard of Wu and A Halloween Carol!
But before we get into the *fun* part of this post…
I have a little rant about the press coverage about the return of the Washington DC pandas to China. 99% of the articles I’ve read all begin and emphasize “CHINA HATES US SO THEY RE TAKING OUR PANDAS AWAY!!!!
So let’s get a little context here. Once upon a time, before China realized what a valuable commodity pandas were, they handed them out like party favors to countries they were trying to suck up to, hence, the Nixon Pandas, which we got in 1972. But since that time, they realized it would be a much smarter idea to loan the pandas (and by “loan” I mean rent them out for a million smackeroos a year per pair) for specific periods of time. In addition to only loaning the pandas, it was agreed that any cubs born were also property of China, and we would have to hand them over any time after they were 2 years old.
This was a good deal for China and a lot of the money (I’m sure not all, but hey! that’s politics) went to improving the panda research bases. Having been to China and visited 5 different bases (or panda ranches, as I like to call them) I can say that the bases are beautiful, modern, and especially the older bases, have huge yards for the pandas and big trees for them to climb. They have multiple dedicated staff attending to their care and feeding. For the most part, the keepers (or panda nannies) seem to love their fuzzy little charges and I have witnessed very tender moments between nannies and cubbies.
It was also a good deal for us and for US and European zoos. People got to see actual pandas, which I can tell you are absolutely wonderful. Pandologists learned more about breeding pandas and what they need both in captivity and in the wild. Many wild injured pandas have been rescued, rehabilitated and returned to the wild. China has made huge steps in creating connected wild territory so that pandas are able to go out and meet new pandas for cards, theater and um…the panda season of love, which is only 2-3 days long.
Panda Diplomacy IS a thing
So, are our crappy current relations with China going to impact getting new pandas, now that our current loan agreements are coming to an end? Well, unfortunately, yes. I am still hopeful we will get more pandas. I am also reassured by photos and videos of the elder pandas from San Diego Zoo, who look healthy, happy, and well loved.
It doesn’t mean we won’t miss Mei Xiang and Tian Tian and our little miracle bear Bikkie (aka Xiao Qi Ji) but I feel fairly sure that they are going to a good life, and I’m hopeful we will get a new panda family to love and obsess over.
In the meantime, we have all these cartoon pandas to keep us entertained! And now….
The Wizard of Wu (part 1)
Pretty exciting, huh?
Stay tuned for more from The Wizard of Wu!