China replaces two giant pandas loaned to Australia: News

China replaces two giant pandas loaned to Australia: News

China will loan Australia new giant pandas, a symbol of Beijing's diplomatic friendships, to replace a pair of pandas whose loan contract is expiring, the Chinese Prime Minister announced on Sunday.

Adelaide Zoo, in southern Australia, has been receiving two giant pandas sent by Beijing, Wang Wang and Fu Ni, since 2009, a practice also known as “panda diplomacy.”

For China, panda diplomacy is a form of “soft power,” a strategy of influence in international relations.

Hence, Beijing enters into loan agreements for its pandas with foreign zoos that generally must, if born, return the panda cubs after a few years for them to join the country's breeding program.

With the loan agreement with Canberra expiring this year, the two giant pandas in Adelaide Zoo's care have yet to have cubs.

The birth of a panda is a rare event: these herbivores have the ability, very rare in the animal kingdom, to stop the development of the fetus if it deems that the period is not suitable for birth. This is the so-called “recession” period.

“Wang Wang and Fu Ni have been away from home for 15 years. I think they missed their home very much so they will return to China before the end of the year,” Chinese Premier Li Qiang said at the zoo from Adelaide. His first stop on his trip is Australia, where the senior Chinese official arrived on Saturday.

“But what I can say is that as soon as possible we will provide a new pair of beautiful, charming and adorable pandas,” Mr Li confirmed, adding that Beijing would submit a list of candidates to Canberra.

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“It's good for the economy, it's good for jobs in South Australia, it's good for tourism, it's a symbol of goodwill, and we thank you for that,” Australian Foreign Minister Penny said.

According to WWF, which works in the field of environmental protection, there are about 1,860 giant pandas remaining, most of them in bamboo forests in mountainous regions of China.

Thanks to conservation programmes, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) removed the panda from the “Endangered” category at the end of 2016. However, it is still listed as Vulnerable on its Red List of Threatened Species.

Posted on June 16 at 7:29 a.m., AFP

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