The National Zoo is attempting to negotiate a deal with the government of China to keep baby panda, Tai Shan, at the zoo past his lease expiration date this summer, but AU students have mixed reactions on whether he should stay.
Under the current panda loan agreement between the governments of China and the United States, a panda cub must return to China around its second birthday, according to Pepper Long, a zoo spokesperson, as quoted on Washington’s WTOP News.
The National Zoo’s baby panda was born July 9, 2005, and is currently 18 months old. His reveal to the public received much fanfare and media attention, The Eagle previously reported.
Approximately one million people visit the zoo each year to see the pandas, according to WTOP.
Tai Shan’s parents, Mei Xiang and Tian Tian, are also on lease from China. However their lease began in 2000 and is for 10 years, according to The Washington Times.
In preparation for Tai Shan’s possible departure, zookeepers have begun to separate him from his mother for a couple hours at night, according to Meg Imholt, a sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences and a formal demonstrations intern at the zoo.
The separation has been working well, according to Imholt.
“They’ve started separating the pandas,” she said. “Apparently, the mother has been getting restless, pacing around, but Tai Shan is pretty much unfazed.”
Students have mixed reactions to keeping the panda here for a longer period.
Tara Palmeri, a sophomore in the School of Communication, said she thinks Tai Shan should stay.
“It will be a continued cultural experience for us,” she said.
However, Lisa Dadian, a freshman in the School of International Service, said she believes Tai Shan should go back to China.
“I don’t believe animals [should be kept] in captivity. The government wants the panda to stay to raise more money,” Dadian said. “I’d like to see the pandas back in China.”
Although Tai Shan was supposed to be sent back around July 2007, the zoo has assured visitors that Tai Shan will remain through at least the summer and possibly the fall, due to paperwork requirements. After that, his future is unknown, according to the zoo’s Web site.
Under the panda loan agreement, the United States pays annual fees up to $1 million for borrowing the pandas, and they remain they property of China, according to the U.S. Embassy in China’s Web site.