Bao Bao, star of the Smithsonian National Zoo’s famed panda cam, and Zoo Atlanta’s twin panda cubs are returning to China in accordance with a long-term loan agreement with the China Wildlife Conservation Association (CWCA).
For decades, China has loaned its prized pandas to countries in what’s known as ‘panda diplomacy,’ rewarding trade deals and political commitments. Today, they come at a steep cost of about $1 million per year, as CNN reports. Zoos frequently sign a decade-long contract, which stipulates that any cubs born to a loaner panda are returned to their native homeland, typically around age four, to participate in a breeding program aimed at bolstering the endangered species’ population.
Bao Bao, the first surviving cub born at the zoo since 2005, “is very special to us at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo,” Brandie Smith, the associate director of animal care sciences, said in a statement. “She’s captured the hearts of people all over the world who watched her grow up on the panda cams, and she has been an ambassador for conservation. We are sad to see her go, but excited for the contributions she is going to continue to make to the global giant panda population.” READ MORE.