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Now’s Your Last Chance to See Pandas in the United States

by Barbara Rogers

Dec 1, 2023

© Chicco7 | Dreamstime.com

Destinations / North America

When the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., sent its three pandas to China in November, it left only one other U.S. zoo with these fascinating animals. Families now must travel to Atlanta to see pandas, but even those will soon return to China.


Ya Lun and Xi Lun, the two cubs born in Zoo Atlanta, will leave for China in January, and the two parents will leave later in the year. The zoos do not own the pandas, leased from China on long-term scientific loans. The zoos pay the Chinese government between $500,000 and $1 million per year for each panda, plus more for every cub born while the parents are on loan.


The cubs, although born in the United States, also belong to China. The fees for panda loans are used for wildlife conservation, largely to create reserves for wild pandas. Although 50 of these reserves have been established, and the wild population has risen by about 17 percent, only a little more than half of the wild pandas live in reserves.


Most of the remaining pandas live in isolated areas with populations too small and scattered to maintain a viable population.


Zoo Atlanta offers several special panda experiences (at extra cost) where visitors can meet with the keepers and even go “backstage” in the pandas’ care area. Once the parent pandas leave in 2024, the closest zoos with pandas will be Toronto Zoo in Canada and Chapultepec Zoo in Mexico City, Mexico.


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