DC zoo to receive two new giant pandas from China

A pair of giant pandas from China will soon be housed at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo in Washington DC, the zoo has announced.

Two-year-old male panda Bao Li and two-year-old female panda Qing Bao are set to arrive in the US capital later this year.

News of their coming arrival was announced with a video on Wednesday featuring First Lady Jill Biden, who called it a “historic moment”.

The move marks the latest chapter of China’s long history of panda diplomacy with the US, and comes despite tense relations between the two countries.

It also comes six months after a family of three pandas was returned to China from the National Zoo.

In their announcement, the zoo said one of the incoming bears - Bao Li - is a descendent of that family.

“This historic moment is proof positive that our collaboration with Chinese colleagues has made an irrefutable impact,” said zoo director Brandie Smith.

The arrival of the bears is a result of a new agreement signed with the China Wildlife Conservation Association (CWSA), the zoo said.

It involves the transfer of two giant pandas recommended for breeding to be under the care of the National Zoo for a decade.

Meanwhile, the National Zoo will pay a $1m (£790,000) annual fee to the CWSA to support their research and conservation efforts.

Both pandas and any of their offspring will remain under the ownership of China, and any cubs born will be moved back to China by the age of four.

The National Zoo said it will make another announcement once the pandas are ready to be viewed by the public.

They are due to arrive in the city by the end of this year.

Pandas have been housed at the Washington DC zoo for over five decades and are a draw for millions of visitors as well as fans from around the world who watch the bears online on the zoo’s panda cam.

The animals have long symbolised warm relations with China, which first gifted a pair of giant pandas to the US after Richard Nixon’s historic 1972 trip to Beijing.

In 2023, China recalled four pandas from the US - including the three that were housed at the National Zoo - and two others from the Edinburgh Zoo, as relations between Beijing and the West became increasingly rocky.

In addition to the pair sent to the National Zoo, the San Diego Zoo announced earlier this year that it will also receive a panda pair.

Experts have said China’s renewed panda diplomacy might be a sign of Beijing exerting “soft power”, as the two countries work to rebuild their relationship despite differences on economic and political issues.