July 21, 1983 The National Zoological Park’s giant panda Ling-Ling gives birth to the first giant panda born in the United States. While the male cub died did not survive, this significant birth of an endangered mammal species renews the Zoo’s hope of future successful births. Courtesy of Smithsonian Institution Archives
Did you know that all giant pandas belong to China?
Mei Xiang and Tian Tian are the National Zoo’s second pair of giant pandas. Both were born at the China Research and Conservation Center for the Giant Panda in Wolong, Sichuan Province. Beginning in the 1950s, China restricted the export of giant pandas and used the animals’ popularity politically by presenting them as gifts to governments around the world.
In 1972, China gave a pair of giant pandas to the United States as thanks for President Nixon’s historic visit (the beginning of normalization of the relationship between China and the United States). The two pandas, Ling-Ling and Hsing-Hsing, were housed at the National Zoo.
In 1984, the Chinese government began loaning the endangered animals to other countries rather than giving them outright. Under the terms of the revised Chinese plan, zoos were offered pandas only for a 10-year period. (Renewals may sometimes be possible.) All the pandas now in captivity outside of China were born after the 1984 change and thus are on loan. The cost of renting a panda is $1,000,000 per year, to be payable to China’s Wildlife Conservation Association. The lease agreement also requires that any cubs born to loaned-out pandas be returned to to China.
Posted: 21 July 2001