HomeAsian AmericansLast pandas in the U.S. will be returning to China this year

Last pandas in the U.S. will be returning to China this year

Zoo Atlanta, the last U.S. zoo with giant panda’s in it’s care, is expected to bid farewell to the four bears this fall.

In a statement released on Friday, Zoo Atlanta said that “preliminary plans are underway for Lun Lun, Yang Yang, Ya Lun, and Xi Lun to travel to China later this year,” in light of the 2024 expiration date of Zoo Atlanta’s Giant Panda agreement with China. While there is no explicit date as of yet, officials said that the return will happen sometime between October and December.

Officials also said that since the process of sending the pandas back takes months, stating, “Zoo Atlanta expects to be able to share significant advance notice of the pandas’ departure with friends and fans,” as well as grant visitors a final opportunity to see to visit them, which will be set at a future date.

Lun Lun and Yang Yang, and their American-born twins, La Yun and Xi Lun, have been the last pandas in the United States since the National Zoo in Washington returned three panda’s last November. Other than Atlanta and D.C., the only other two U.S. zoos to house giant pandas were the Memphis Zoo and San Diego zoo. Memphis returned it’s last Panda in April 2023, while San Diego returned theirs in 2019.

Atlanta received Lun Lun and Yang Yang from China in 1999 a part of a soon-to-expire 25-year loan agreement. Ya Lun and Xi Lun, both born in 2016, are the youngest of seven pandas born in the Atlanta Zoo since 1999.

However, it’s likely the U.S. will accept another pair of Pandas before the Atlanta quartet departs. In April, San Fransisco Mayor London Breed announced that the city’s zoo will be receiving it’s own pair of panda’s next year. In addition, the San Diego Zoo also announced in April that staff members traveled to China to meet panda pair Yun Chuan and Xiu Bao, who are expected to arrive in San Diego sometime in the summer.

The panda exchange between China and the U.S. began in 1972, when then-President Richard Nixon signed an agreement that saw pandas being loaned to U.S. Zoos for research and breeding purposes. According to the World Wildlife Fund, there are just 1,800 giant pandas left in the wild. While breeding programs and other conservation efforts have increased those numbers, the giant panda’s survival is still at severe risk.

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