The San Diego Zoo will lose its last two giant pandas in April when the once-endangered animals will be repatriated to their ancestral homeland in China.
The return of 27-year-old Bai Yun and her 6-year-old son Xio Liwu is specified in the zoo’s conservation loan agreement with the People’s Republic of China.
“We understand that pandas are beloved around the world, including by our staff, volunteers and millions of annual guests,” said Dwight Scott, director of the zoo. “We are planning a fitting celebration next month for Bai Yun and Xiao Liwu that includes a big thank you to the Chinese people for their continued partnership and our combined conservation accomplishments in helping to save this amazing species.”
The zoo began working with the giant pandas 25 years ago, when the species was on the verge of extinction. The zoo’s research into panda behavior, pregnancy, births, and maternal and geriatric care provided the necessary help to boost the wild population in China to more than 2,000 individuals.
Bai Yun and Xiao Liwu’s departure follows that of giant panda patriarch Gao Gao, who was repatriated in October.
“Although we are sad to see these pandas go, we have great hopes for the future,” said Shawn Dixon, chief operating officer of San Diego Zoo Global. “Working with our colleagues in China, San Diego Zoo Global is ready to make a commitment for the next stage of our panda program.”
Zoo guests can continue to visit the pandas at their home in Panda Canyon until April 27.