Two big pandas start their return to China from the Smithsonian Nationwide Zoo | Washington, DC

The Smithsonian’s Nationwide Zoo’s two big pandas formally started their return to China on Wednesday.

The 2 pandas, Mei Xiang and Tian Tian, ​​have been in the US on mortgage from China for greater than 20 years as a part of a analysis settlement that’s set to run out early subsequent month. Their cub, three-year-old Xiao Zhijie, may even go.

The enormous panda will probably be transported by forklift in a field exterior the zoo on Wednesday after which taken on a 19-hour journey to the panda sanctuary in Chengdu, China’s Sichuan province. The bears will journey on a 777F plane referred to as “FedEx Panda Specific.”

The US obtained its first pandas from China in 1972 after Richard Nixon advised the Chinese language premier on the time, Zhou Enlai, that he cherished the animals. Their continued presence in the US has come to be understood as an emblem of goodwill between China and the US, or what some name “panda diplomacy.” Pandas stay in the US beneath an settlement with their Chinese language counterparts.

Panda consultants He told the New York Times The animals have reached the age the place they have to return to China. “They’re on the age they need to be in China,” Melissa Songer, a biologist on the Smithsonian Nationwide Zoo, advised the New York Occasions. “I do not need pandas to die exterior China.”

The departure of Mei Xiang, Tian Tian and Xiao Zhijie means Zoo Atlanta would be the solely zoo in the US to accommodate big pandas, and they’re scheduled to return to China subsequent yr. The Nationwide Zoo plans to ask Chinese language officers for a brand new pair of pandas, The Occasions reported There is some speculation Rising tensions between the US and China could forestall one other settlement from getting into into power.

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